Thermo Fisher Scientific Unveils Next Generation Sequencing Assay for Pediatric Cancers

Scientists Collaborating

Less than a week after unveiling its first cloud-enabled biological safety cabinet for contamination control, Thermo Fisher Scientific launched its first next-generation sequencing (NGS) panel that specifically targets mutations associated with pediatric and young adult cancers.

Next-generation sequencing (NGS) examines DNA in order to detect genomic variations that could determine whether or not someone has or is at risk of developing a genetic disease. NGS can also help physicians determine a course of action when treating diseases. Thermo Fisher’s new assay is dubbed the Oncomine Childhood Cancer Research Assay and was developed in association with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Alongside the new assay Thermo Fisher and the hospital also established the International Childhood Oncology Network (ICON) to support the research programs.

The company said ICON will be a free-to-join resource that is designed to “develop a global community of members spanning academic and clinical researchers who collaborate through sharing of data, best practices and experiment protocols to drive deeper understanding of pediatric and young adult cancers.” Membership in ICON is available through a registration process enabling access to data sets that are uploaded by network members to the ICON database.

In its announcement, Thermo Fisher said previous research of recurrent mutations associated with pediatric, childhood and young adult cancers has lagged behind the adult forms of the disease, which has helped foster an underserved patient population.

Because of that, the company said it has led to an underserved community of patients. However, Thermo Fisher said recent initiatives in profiling genomic mutations in pediatric patients have helped to identify a “large set of unique recurrent somatic variants” that reveals how different the pediatric forms of cancer are when compares to adult cancers.

“While adult cancers are commonly carcinomas with mutations that accumulate over time, childhood cancers are most often embryonic or neuro-ectodermal in origin and are largely driven by gene fusions,” the company said.

Thermo Fisher said the assay combines specific mutations, gene amplification and fusions in a single panel. ICON interrogates 203 unique genes representing multiple gene classes and 1,700 fusion transcripts in two DNA and two RNA pools using a seamless NGS workflow.

Joydeep Goswami, president of next-generation sequencing and oncology at Thermo Fisher Scientific, said ICON will help drive “real change and better understanding of childhood cancers.” That’s important since the American Childhood Cancer Organization has estimated that one in 285 children in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday.

“The Oncomine Childhood Cancer Research Assay is of particular importance because it is the first designed for all forms of childhood cancers that simultaneously detects RNA gene fusions and DNA mutations, both of which are critical in childhood cancer,” Timothy J. Triche, co-director of the Center for Personalized Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles said in a statement. “I am also very excited by the International Childhood Oncology Network, which will allow us and its members to collect data and share our experience in an effort to drive clinical research in childhood cancer.”

As part of its design, the new assay has been developed to integrate with Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Ion Chef System for automated library preparation and amplification. The Oncomine Childhood Cancer Research Assay can also integrate with the company’s new Ion GeneStudio S5 Systems and the Ion Reporter for downstream bioinformatics and reporting, the company said.

The new NGS panel comes at a time when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is revamping its guidelines for next-generation sequencing. On Friday the FDA unveiled the new guidelines to accelerate the advancement of personalized medicine technologies.  

Last week Thermo Fisher revealed its new Thermo Scientific HeraSafe 2030i cabinet, which is designed to enable secure remote collection and storage of data. Additionally, the device is designed to facilitate superior analytical reproducibility and traceability of results.

In 2017 Thermo Fisher earned the number 19 spot in the BioSpace Ideal Employer survey. Not only did it come in at no. 19 overall, the Waltham, Mass. company snagged the number one spot for customer-facing roles.

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