The Applied Proteogenomics OrganizationaL Learning and Outcomes (APOLLO) network, which is a partnership among the National Cancer Institute, Department of Defense, and Department of Veterans Affairs, has tapped the Paulovich Laboratory at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to create a panel of tests to measure key proteins that can serve as markers for tumors. The effort could ultimately lead to treatments that are more specifically targeted to a patient’s distinct type of cancer.
The APOLLO network is part of the Cancer Moonshot launched last year and led by former Vice President Joseph Biden. The network is contributing to the initiative’s goal of making 10 years of progress in cancer research in just 5 years by using methods in proteogenomics to identify new ways to find and treat cancer. The emerging field of proteogenomics examines how a patient’s genes and the proteins the genes produce contribute to cancer growth and response to cancer treatments. “There’s a growing appreciation of the value of proteomic approaches to studying cancer, and how they are complementary to genomic approaches,” said Dr. Amanda Paulovich, who is a member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Clinical Research Division and a professor in the Department of Medicine/Division of Oncology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
“Genomic profiles alone, while advancing our ability to predict cancer responses to therapy, cannot in many cases provide sufficient information to definitively determine which types of cancers respond best to which therapeutics,” Paulovich said. Since most cancer drugs target proteins, the hope is that adding protein analysis to gene analysis will improve the ability to predict tumor response to treatment, and to eventually match the right tumor with the right drug, she said.
“With APOLLO, we believe that by merging our grasp of the genome with a better understanding of its connection to the proteome, or proteogenomics, scientists will have the knowledge, including new regimens and better tools, to assemble the puzzle of precision-based medicine and its translation toward patient care,” said Dr. Henry Rodriguez, director, NCI Office of Cancer Clinical Proteomics Research.
As part of NCI’s Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium (CPTAC), that brings together leading centers nationwide in a comprehensive and coordinated effort to accelerate the understanding of the molecular basis of cancer through the application of large-scale proteome and genome analysis, or proteogenomics, Paulovich’s lab has pioneered targeted, reproducible proteomic assays that offer significant advantages over traditional laboratory methods for measuring proteins. “We’re excited to take this technology that we’ve extensively vetted in preclinical experiments and now begin to implement it in clinical trials,” Paulovich said.
APOLLO is initially focusing on lung cancer patients, with plans to eventually include other forms of cancer. Researchers and clinicians will work side-by-side to classify tumors based on molecular changes in genes and in the levels of proteins, and hope ultimately to use that information to devise tests to recommend targeted therapies or refer patients to appropriate clinical trials.
Paulovich’s proteomics assays are built on a technology called multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) mass spectrometry, which is widely used in clinical chemistry for quantifying smaller molecules (metabolites). It was named the “Method of the Year” for 2012 by the journal Nature Methods. Paulovich’s lab will develop a customized panel of MRM-based assays and deploy these assays to quantify tumor proteins in clinical samples from patients receiving treatment. Other collaborators in the Moonshot project will decide on treatments, track how well the treatments shrink the tumors, and then search for correlations that show whether the tumors’ protein makeup related to how well the patients responded to treatment.
The Cancer Moonshot aims to speed up the discovery and delivery of cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment approaches. The initiative is led by NCI and former Vice President Biden who visited the Hutch last summer as part of a tour of the nation’s top cancer research centers.
About Fred Hutch
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer with minimal side effects. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first and largest cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. Private contributions are essential for enabling Fred Hutch scientists to explore novel research opportunities that lead to important medical breakthroughs. For more information, visit fredhutch.org or follow Fred Hutch on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.