CMM Offers Breakthrough Testing Aid

December 17, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Center for Molecular Medicine was one of the first laboratories in the Midwest to offer a groundbreaking new test to aid in the treatment of matastatic breast cancer, and now it’s one of the first labs in the nation to offer the test for use on metastatic colorectal cancer patients, as well. 

CMM is offering physicians testing services using the Veridex CellSearch System, a one-of-a kind diagnostic test that automatically identifies and counts circulation tumor cells in a blood sample to predict disease progression and overall survival in patients earlier than other current methods.

According to CMM, testing for circulating tumor cells with the CellSearch System, in combination with other clinical monitoring methods, can help physicians assess disease progression, and, in turn, help them make more informed treatment decisions sooner. The center says CellSearch will help doctors predict the effectiveness of treatment at any time because the system has the ability to locate one circulating tumor cell in the 40 billion cells contained in a 7.5 ml sample of blood.

CMM Executive Director Daniel H. Farkas, Ph.D., said CMM had previously alerted physicians in the area to the fact that the CellSearch System was on the way. It has been on site at CMM for about three months and has created quite a buzz in the local oncology community, he said. 

“Many oncology groups are interested in using the test and interested in bringing the test ‘in house’ rather than sending the test out to national reference laboratories,” Farkas said. “They would be much more interested in keeping the testing in town.”

Farkas said the center is pleased to add CellSearch cancer-testing to CMM’s growing menu of cutting-edge diagnostic services available to physicians. The test was originally cleared by the Federal Drug Administration for use on breast cancer patients to help determine the effectiveness of their cancer treatments. Studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that the detection of circulating tumor cells in the blood can predict the disease progression and survival in women with metastatic breast cancer. More recently, the FDA granted expanded clearance for the CellSearch System to be used as an aid in the monitoring of patients with advanced colorectal cancer, as well. CellSearch will likely have more applications for different types of cancer as time goes on, Farkas said.

“The CellSearch cancers test represents an important advance in how breast and colorectal cancer can be detected and managed over the long term,” Farkas explained. “It’s an important new capability for the region’s medical community and another significant step forward in the growth of the CMM as a unique resource in the rapidly expanding field of molecular medicine.” 

The test costs $495. CMM is working with insurance providers in the area to encourage them to cover it.

“We are having very positive discussions and continue to meet,” Farkas said, noting that insurance providers have generally been open to the idea. “They’re reviewing the data, and we are hopeful of a favorable coverage decision.”

CMM is a joint venture between Spectrum Health and Van Andel Institute. The center conducts trials for diagnostics and pharmaceutical companies, offering the latest molecular technologies for investigating complex diseases such as cancer, heart disease, mental illness and other conditions at the DNA and RNA protein levels.

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