23 Feb OpGen joins UW, Henry Ford Heath in Improving Brain Tumor Treatment
Madison, Wis. — OpGen, Inc., a provider of single-molecule DNA analysis technology, announced Thursday it has commenced an optical mapping study of a deadly type of brain tumor, known as oligodendroglioma. OpGen, based in Madison, is working with the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center and professor of genetics and chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a founder of OpGen, David Schwartz.
Optical mapping, invented by Schwartz, will enable researchers to determine how well a patient will respond to treatment and pinpoints and characterizes lesions in the genome, determining activity at the DNA level.
According to Oliver Bogler, associate scientist at the Hermelin Center, deletions of chromosome 1p and 19q correlate strongly with response to a range of therapies. “It is crucial to understand the nature of these rearrangements,” Bogler said. “The fact that these deletions affect response to such different treatments, including various drug combinations and radiotherapy, indicates that something fundamental is going on here, and understanding these events could be crucial in developing new treatments for this, and possibly other lethal cancers.”
Bogler said one of the main challenges of critical gene identification, which optical mapping surmounts, lies in the fact the DNA involved in the 1p/19q mutation is very large and older techniques, such as using PCR reactions to sample small islands along the chromosome, are time consuming and expensive.
“Our goal in this project has been to put together a diverse and synergetic team of investigators to add new functionality to the Optical Mapping platform that will be able to pinpoint the molecular underpinnings of cancer from any type of solid tumor or other forms of cancer; we intend to demonstrate this capability by conducting the first high-resolution scan of this tumor,” Schwartz said.
OpGen and Schwartz have been working with a group of statisticians and mathematicians, which include Michael Waterman, professor of biological sciences and mathematics at University of Southern California. Waterman, a member of OpGen’s scientific board, is helping to develop new algorithms to bring out all genetic variations that occur in gliomas.
In addition to the 1p/19q deletions, OpGen’s genomic analysis system may also allow Hermelin Center’s researchers to identify additional genome rearrangements affecting outcome and treatment response and to study other primary and metastatic brain tumors. The Hermelin Center is sending tumor samples to be analyzed by OpGen and Schwartz to construct the first optical maps. The company plans to analyze multiple tumor samples within the next two years and has applied for additional funding to expand the study.
“We hope that the information gleaned in this early stage will eventually lead us to an understanding of which genes are involved so that we can understand the biological basis of gliomas,” Bogler said. “If we can find a way to make brain tumors more sensitive to treatment, then that would open the door to new therapies and new approaches.”
Currently, the standard treatment for brain tumors is surgery to reduce the mass and release pressure on normal tissue pushing on the skull. The surgery is then followed-up by chemotherapy treatments. About 20 percent of the 20,000 primary brain tumors diagnosed every year in the United Sates are oligodendrogliomas.