VHIO: first academic research center to use liquid biopsy RAS biomarker testing technology

Source: Merck Serono

Merck Serono and Sysmex Inostics Announce First Liquid Biopsy RAS Biomarker Testing Center Opens: Important Milestone for mCRC Patients

• The Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology, Spain: the first test center of its kind to use liquid biopsy RAS biomarker testing technology

• Leading research center will use technology to evolve understanding of who will benefit most from targeted treatment to improve patient outcomes

• Liquid biopsy RAS biomarker test is on course to receive its CE mark in coming months to make it widely accessible for patients

Darmstadt, Germany and Barcelona, Spain, February 20, 2015 – Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical business of Merck, announced today that the first liquid biopsy RAS biomarker testing center has opened in the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO), Barcelona, Spain, and will initially test patients as part of its research program. This is an important milestone in making the new liquid biopsy RAS test available to patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC), and a significant step forward in Merck Serono’s collaboration with Sysmex Inostics GmbH, Hamburg, Germany. The liquid biopsy method, also known as blood-based biomarker testing, is a simplified and rapid approach for determining the RAS (KRAS and NRAS) mutation status of tumors, as it requires a single blood draw, rather than a tissue biopsy or surgical procedure.1

“We are excited that within less than one year of announcing our collaboration with Sysmex Inostics we are already making significant progress in bringing this new
liquid biopsy RAS biomarker test to patients in one of Europe’s leading oncology centers,”
said Belén Garijo, Member of the Executive Board of Merck and CEO Healthcare, at the opening event in Barcelona. “Merck Serono is committed to improving patient outcomes and supporting clinicians in advancing the standard of care in metastatic colorectal cancer, and we are delighted that we will soon be able to offer a new method of RAS biomarker testing to the international oncology community.”

The liquid biopsy RAS biomarker test will help to advance precision medicine, and also has the potential to provide mutation status results within days, helping to guide treatment decisions.1 Approximately half of patients with mCRC present with tumors with RAS mutations.2 Results from studies assessing RAS mutation status in patients with mCRC have shown that anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (anti-EGFR) monoclonal antibody therapies can improve outcomes in patients with RAS wild-type mCRC.3–9

The liquid biopsy RAS biomarker test is expected to receive its European Conformity approval (CE mark) in the coming months, making it accessible to a wider population of mCRC patients. The test will then be implemented in numerous medical centers across the world. The Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology will be the first test center of its kind, with further laboratories to be established throughout 2015, including in Australia, France, Germany, Italy and the UK, among others.

“This is a significant step in our collaboration with Merck Serono,” said Fernando Andreu, CEO of Sysmex Inostics. “We are pleased to have the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology as the first institution to offer our highly sensitive OncoBEAM™ tests for blood-based diagnostics. This collaborative approach between Merck Serono and Sysmex Inostics, along with the reputation and expertise of Vall d’Hebron, is another major step in advancing personalized medicine for metastatic colorectal cancer patients and enhancing the value of our clinical OncoBEAM™ assays.”

The Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology will use blood samples from mCRC patients to advance research into RAS biomarkers. The ability to test for these mutations at Vall d’Hebron with a potentially quicker and easier testing method could improve the standard of care for patients.

“As patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) can respond differently to various treatments, it is important to understand more about the tumor, especially its biology and genetics,” said Professor Josep Tabernero, Director of the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology. “Once this liquid biopsy RAS biomarker test has received its CE mark, it will become an important advance in testing mCRC patients and be a useful tool for treatment decisions. The liquid biopsy method can potentially save time, compared with current tissue-based RAS testing, and spares patients from a tissue biopsy or surgical procedure. We will only need a sample of blood, and we can then potentially provide results in 2–3 days.”

About Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second most common cancer worldwide, with an estimated incidence of more than 1.36 million new cases annually.10 An estimated 694,000 deaths from CRC occur worldwide every year, accounting for 8.5% of all cancer deaths and making it the fourth most common cause of death from cancer.10 Almost 55% of CRC cases are diagnosed in developed regions of the world, and incidence and mortality rates are substantially higher in men than in women.10


1. Diaz LA Jr and Bardelli A. J Clin Oncol 2014;32(6):579−86.
2. Vaughn CP, et al. Genes Chromosomes Cancer 2011;50(5):307−12.
3. Douillard J-Y, et al. N Engl J Med 2013;369(11):1023–34.
4. Schwartzberg LS, et al. J Clin Oncol 2014;32(21):2240–7.
5. Bokemeyer C, et al. Oral presentation at the 2014 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting, May 30–June 3, 2014. Abstract No:3505.
6. Stintzing S, et al. Oral presentation at the 2014 European Society of Medical Oncology Annual Meeting, September 26–30, 2014. Abstract No:LBA11.
7. Van Cutsem E, et al. J Clin Oncol 2015;pii: JCO.2014.59.4812.
8. Erbitux® (cetuximab) SmPC, 2014. Available at:
http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/EPAR_-_Product_Information/human/000558/WC500029119.pdf. Last accessed February 2015.
9. Vectibix® (panitumumab) SmPC, 2014. Available at:
http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/EPAR_-_Product_Information/human/000741/WC500047710.pdf. Last accessed February 2015.
10. Ferlay J, et al. Int J Cancer 2015;136(5):E359–86.


About Sysmex Inostics
Sysmex Inostics, a subsidiary of Sysmex Corporation, is a molecular diagnostic company whose core competency is mutation detection utilizing highly sensitive technologies such as Plasma-Sequencing and BEAMing. With BEAMing being one of the most sensitive and quantitative technologies available today for the detection of tumor specific somatic mutations in blood samples, Sysmex Inostics’ BEAMing services are readily available to support clinical trials and research in oncology. Furthermore, Sysmex Inostics companion diagnostics (CDx) team offers services for the development of non-invasive plasma DNA based IVD tests supported by a growing network of partners to cover the entire IVD development process. In addition, BEAMing tests (OncoBEAM) are available through a CLIA certified laboratory for routine clinical analysis.

Sysmex Inostics’ headquarters are located in Hamburg, Germany and Sysmex Inostics’ Clinical Laboratory is located in Baltimore, Maryland. For more information on OncoBEAM blood testing and the BEAMing technology refer to www.sysmex-inostics.com or email info@sysmex-inostics.com.

About Merck Serono
Merck Serono is the biopharmaceutical business of Merck. With headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany, Merck Serono offers leading brands in 150 countries to help patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, infertility, endocrine and metabolic disorders as well as cardiovascular diseases. In the United States and Canada, EMD Serono operates as a separately incorporated subsidiary of Merck Serono.

Merck Serono discovers, develops, manufactures and markets prescription medicines of both chemical and biological origin in specialist indications. We have an enduring commitment to deliver novel therapies in our core focus areas of neurology, oncology, immuno-oncology and immunology.

For more information, please visit www.merckserono.com.


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