Yesterday, Abbott Laboratories (ABT) signed a deal with Pfizer Inc. (PFE) for developing a test to identify patients who are likely to benefit from the latter’s lung-cancer drug. Pfizer’s PF-02341066 is a novel diagnostic agent that selectively targets certain genes implicated in the progress of many cancers.

The therapy can be applied only when a particular genetic translocation (rearrangement) that is found in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tumors and several other cancers but not in normal cells should be detected. Abbott’s molecular diagnostic test will screen NSCLC tumors for the presence of the gene rearrangements.

The test will determine a patient’s genetic status and will be used in patient selection for Pfizer’s clinical trials in future. NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer and usually grows and spreads more slowly than small cell lung cancer.

Last month, Abbott entered into a similar agreement with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Under that contract, Abbott will develop an automated molecular diagnostic test based on polymerase chain reaction technology to screen NSCLC tumors for MAGE-A3 antigen. Glaxo’s MAGE-A3 ASCI (Antigen Specific Cancer Immunotherapy) candidate is currently in a phase III clinical study.

The development of companion diagnostic tests will help personalize medical treatment. In our view, the ability to predict patient response to therapy would be a major positive for both physicians and patients and help increase success rate of the treatment. The tests will ensure identification of patients most likely to benefit from the treatment.

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