UM Breast Cancer Researchers partner with Almac to win prestigious Department of Defense Grant

July 28, 2009

Almac Diagnostic Services have partnered with breast cancer researchers at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami Miller (UM) to win a prestigious Department of Defense Synergistic Idea Award, one of just twelve such grants awarded in the United States.

The $725,000 research grant over two years will allow Lisa Baumbach, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the MillerSchool, and Mark Pegram, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Associate Director for clinical and translational research at the Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute at Sylvester, to expand their earlier work and examine the genetic differences found in African-American breast cancer patients.

Baumbach and Pegram’s study utilizes Almac’s Cancer DSA™.   The Almac Cancer DSA™ is the first high-density microarray to focus on the transcriptome of a particular disease and as a result contains significant, additional and relevant information.  The tool has been designed to enable profiling from both frozen and FFPE tissue which allows application of this unique microarray technology to current clinical practice and retrospective tissue banks.

Professor Paul Harkin,President of Almac Diagnostic Services explains that; “the Almac Diagnostic Services Breast Cancer DSA™ research tool offers the most comprehensive gene expression analysis platform for the study of breast cancer with over 60,000 biologically relevant transcripts available for interrogation.”

The UM teams preliminary findings showed ethnic-specific gene expression patterns in African-American women.  Using breast cancer tissue samples, they will now compare genome expression in African-Americans with naturalized African women, examining 50 women in each group.  In addition, Baumbach and Pegram will also analyzechromosomal alterations associated with gene expression differences.

Lisa Baumbach, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the MillerSchool said:” Recent discoveries  using the Almac Breast Cancer DSA™ indicate there may be distinct genetic differences in breast tissue between African-American, Caucasian and Hispanic patients.  The new grant will allow the UM team to take those findings a step further, with an international collaboration on women of African descent.”

Baumbach stated that Almac’s particular expertise in working with FFPE samples has opened up a wealth of potential information; “determining the exact genetic differences in breast tissue samples of certain ethnicities could have worldwide ramifications in terms of reducing the global burden of breast cancer by developing more effective preventions and treatments.”

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among African-American women, and for this ethnic group, carries a 20 percent greater mortality than that of Caucasian women.  Among the scientific community it is widely acknowledged that African-American women, regardless of their age, are more likely to have triple negative breast cancer. In addition, it is likely to occur at an earlier age, and have a higher proliferative fraction. All these factors add up to a worse prognosis.

Baumbach said: “There is a clear need for us to better understand the genetic differences in women of African ancestry so we can translate that into more effective guidelines and therapies.”

Agreeing with his colleague Pegram concluded: “We hope to identify the genes or molecular alterations that are causing these differences among ethnic groups. Once that happens, the goal is to identify a potential therapeutic target to personalize therapeutic approaches.”



Michael Sloan

VP Business Development

Almac Diagnostic Services

T: + 44 (0) 28 38337575

E: [email protected]

Carl Whyte

Stakeholder Communications

T: +44(0)2890 339949

E: [email protected]

Notes to Editors

About Almac Diagnostic Services:

Almac Diagnostic Services is personalised medicine company whose core expertise is in the provision of genomic-based solutions.  Almac utilise their experience, expertise and unique Cancer DSA™ technology to partner with customers enabling translational genomic solutions for personalised medicine.  Current developments include a pipeline of genomics based IVD tests, all of which have been developed from FFPE tissue.

Almac Diagnostic Services has received support from Invest NI and the European Regional Development Programme.

About the Breast Cancer DSA™ research tool:

Almac Diagnostic’s range of Cancer DSA™ research tools are microarrays developed to enable accelerated research in discovery, development and validation and ultimately to deliver clinical applications.

As the first microarray based around the transcriptome colorectal cancer, the Breast Cancer DSA™ research tool generates significantly more information, which is reliable and relevant to the disease of interest, than is available on a generic array.

Array content has been generated through a process of sequencing, gene expression profiling and mining of public databases followed by extensive bioinformatics analysis to create and annotate the unique, comprehensive coverage of the breast cancer transcriptome. This provides researchers with all the information required to draw meaningful conclusions from their experimental data.

Based upon the gold standard Affymetrix GeneChip technology, the DSA™ research tools provide multiple independent measurements for each transcript and content is both reliable and reproducible.

About Almac Group:

The Almac Group comprises five closely integrated divisions offering a broad range of services from R&D, translational genomic services, API manufacture, formulation development, clinical trial supply and technology (IVRS and Web), to commercial-scale manufacture. Almac provides services to more than 600 companies, including all the world leaders in the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors.

The company employs over 2,400 individuals and is headquartered in Craigavon, Northern Ireland. US operations are based in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and California. Construction of the company’s new $112m North American Headquarters started in July 08 and is expected to be completed 2010. Almac was awarded Northern Ireland’s “Business of the Year” award in 2009.

For more information about the Almac Group, please visit or e-mail [email protected]

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