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Lab21 and ITOR unveil major leap forward in personalized cancer medicine
Tuesday, March 06, 2012

GREENVILLE, S.C. – The new Lab21 Clinical Genomics Center at ITOR will allow cancer patients in the Upstate to be among the first in the region to benefit from new technology that will allow patients to get real-time feedback and treatment plans tied to their cancer’s specific DNA signature.

“Bringing this leading-edge technology to the cancer clinic represents a significant breakthrough and the culmination of a seven-year journey,” said Dr. Joe Stephenson, medical director for GHS’ Institute for Translational Oncology Research. “This genomics center is another major step towards fulfilling our vision to provide personalized cancer care – better enabling us to offer the right drug, at the right time, to the right patient.” 

Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center will be one of the first sites in the country to bring Ion Torrent next-generation gene-sequencing technology into a clinical environment for personalized oncology medicine studies. “This breakthrough will allow us to advance the process of personalized oncology in a way that was not possible before in our community,” said Dr. Larry Gluck, medical director of the GHS Cancer Center.

“We are delighted to announce the founding of the Lab21 Clinical Genomics Center at ITOR as the next major step forward for Lab21 in North America,” said Michael Bolick, president of Lab21 Inc. UK-based Lab21, Ltd. located its North American headquarters in Greenville in 2010 partly to be in close proximity to ITOR. 
 
Bolick continued, “This center, which further strengthens our relationship with ITOR, will pave the way for clinical trial applications and provide a framework to commercialize biomarker discoveries as part of Lab21’s proprietary companion diagnostic portfolio.”

This potential sea change in cancer treatment is made possible through Life Technologies’ next-generation Ion Torrent sequencing systems. Martin Naley, Life Technologies’ vice president for genomics medicine, said Greenville will be one of the first locations to bring the Ion Torrent technology directly into research studies that patients can access. 

The game-changing systems are designed to enable sequencing of the entire human genome in less than 24 hours for under $1,000. System engineers hope to hit that benchmark by early next year. Sequencing systems currently on the market typically take several weeks to do this at a cost of $5,000-$10,000 – but even that is a major leap forward from where the technology stood only a decade ago when the process would have cost millions of dollars and required many months to accomplish. 

ITOR and Lab21 will work with leading healthcare institutions across the globe in pursuit of similar strategies to optimize tests and exchange genomic and health outcome data. “The end result could be to enable continuous healthcare discovery and improvement through collective patient experience,” said Naley.

Here in Greenville, the technology’s use will require several months of development and validation, with broad patient use expected by next year.

This resource is designed to become an integrated part of the evaluation of every cancer patient who is cared for in the GHS system, said ITOR’s Stephenson. It will also become a powerful translational research service for ITOR’s research university and private-sector collaborators.

ITOR, a collaborative effort announced in October 2010, currently has four on-site research partners in its research innovation zone and boasts more than 40 industry collaborators. ITOR is located on GHS’ Memorial Medical Campus adjacent to GHS Cancer Center. 

Said Gluck, “This new genomics center represents significant progress in our vision of creating a regional cancer center of excellence that offers a higher level of leading-edge research, therapies and support to patients and families.”

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