BC Cancer Agency and Pfizer Oncology Scientists Identify the P-cadherin Protein as a Prognostic Biomarker in Breast Cancer

Oct 28, 2010 | Corporate Member News

Scientists from the BC Cancer Agency and Pfizer Oncology have published the first results of their three-year research collaboration.

The paper, published in the journal Modern Pathology, analyzed the expression of the P-cadherin protein in breast cancer. P-cadherin is involved in controlling the development and function of the normal mammary gland, but may also play a role in breast cancer (a number of small-scale studies had suggested that high levels of the P-cadherin protein are associated with poor survival in breast cancer patients).

The research team took advantage of a unique resource at the BC Cancer Agency—a collection of 3,992 breast tumor samples associated with anonymized clinical information about each patient—to undertake the largest study to date of P-cadherin expression in breast cancer. The large scale of this tissue collection allowed the team to confirm that P-cadherin expression is associated with poor overall and disease-specific survival in breast cancer patients. The scientists also determined that this relationship occurs because P-cadherin is found predominantly in two of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer, HER2 and core basal.

“Our study shows for the first time, and definitively in a large tissue microarray series, that P-cadherin expression is a strong prognostic factor in breast cancer,” explains the study’s lead author, Dr. Gulisa Turashvili of the BC Cancer Agency. “However, the prognostic association is not independent of tumour subtype and other variables; P-cadherin expression is strongly associated with HER2-positive and basal-type carcinomas, two of the five distinct molecular subtypes of breast cancer. This has important implications for the use of P-cadherin as a subtype marker and therapeutic target.”

“These results help clarify the relationship of P-cadherin expression and survival in breast cancer patients and may motivate targeting anti-p-cad therapy as part of a precision medicine strategy,” says Paul Rejto, Director, Pfizer R&D Oncology. “This partnership between Pfizer and the BC Cancer Agency has proven to deliver high-quality science that we are using to potentially help patients in the future.”

The collaboration between Pfizer Oncology and the BC Cancer Agency began in 2009, with the aim of leveraging each partner’s unique expertise and resources to identify new biomarkers and treatment targets for breast and ovarian cancer.

“These partnerships highlight the importance of private-public collaborations and ensure that local Canadian researchers have the support they need to conduct innovative work in the area of oncology,” highlights Richard Fajzel, General Manager, Oncolgy Business Unit at Pfizer Canada.

The P-cadherin study highlights the benefits of this collaborative approach. Pfizer helped to fund the study, and their scientists were involved in the analysis of the data, which was generated and analyzed at the BC Cancer Agency. 

Dr. Sam Aparicio, lead investigator on the P-cadherin study and Nan and Lorraine Robertson Breast Cancer Chair at the BC Cancer Agency and University of British Columbia, said, “We are excited to see the first result from our collaborative work with Pfizer reach fruition with the potential for a positive impact on the development of new medicines for breast cancer patients.”

About the BC Cancer Agency
The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer, and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation, and palliative care. The BC Cancer Foundation raises funds to support research and enhancements to patient care at the BC Cancer Agency. For more information about the BC Cancer Agency, please visit http://www.bccancer.bc.ca/ 

About Pfizer Oncology
Pfizer Oncology is committed to the discovery, investigation and development of innovative treatment options to improve the outlook for cancer patients worldwide.  This independent business unit within Pfizer Inc. was established to accelerate innovation while still drawing on the expertise and resources of the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company. As science in oncology continues to evolve, Pfizer is pursuing research centered around a personalized approach to cancer treatment and tailoring therapy based on the molecular and/or biologic make-up of the disease. 

Pfizer Oncology has a robust pipeline that consists of 22 biologics and small molecules in development, including several first-in-class compounds.  In addition Pfizer Oncology has over 200 clinical trials currently running, including 14 phase III trials, in some of the most prevalent and difficult-to-treat cancers such as Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, lung, breast, and renal cell. 

Pfizer Oncology works collaboratively with academic institutions, individual researchers, cooperative research groups, governments, and licensing partners to further its extensive research and development program.  In British Columbia Pfizer has a 3-year research collaboration with the BC Cancer Agency and the Prostate Center at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) to tackle new targets and molecules for the treatment of breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.  We are committed to partnerships with professional and patient organizations that deliver benefits to patients including disease management tools, awareness of clinical trial options and access to new medicines. 

About Pfizer
Pfizer Inc: Working together for a healthier world™
At Pfizer, we apply science and our global resources to improve health and well-being at every stage of life.  We strive to set the standard for quality, safety and value in the discovery, development and manufacturing of medicines for people and animals.  Our diversified global health care portfolio includes human and animal biologic and small molecule medicines and vaccines, as well as nutritional products and many of the world’s best-known consumer products.  Every day, Pfizer colleagues work across developed and emerging markets to advance wellness, prevention, treatments and cures that challenge the most feared diseases of our time.  Consistent with our responsibility as the world’s leading biopharmaceutical company, we also collaborate with health care providers, governments and local communities to support and expand access to reliable, affordable health care around the world. For more than 150 years, Pfizer has worked to make a difference for all who rely on us.  To learn more about our commitments, please visit us at http://www.pfizer.com/.

For further information:

Papinder Rehncy
BC Cancer Agency
[email protected] 
604.877.6261Safia Généreux-Khali
Pfizer Canada
514.239.2393 (cell)  

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