8th September 2017

Simple blood test opens door to new treatments for lung cancer patients

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and Roche Diagnostics introduce
pioneering approach to lung cancer diagnosis

A simple test which can detect gene mutations in tumour DNA from blood samples is giving new choices to lung cancer patients with faster diagnosis and improved access to life changing drugs.

Traditionally, lung cancer diagnosis has relied solely on lung biopsies, an invasive procedure which many patients are too unwell to tolerate.  However the new cobas® EGFR Mutation Test v2 CE-IVD test from Roche Diagnostics enables the use of a liquid biopsy from blood to be used alongside or instead of the lung biopsy (when the lung biopsy cannot be performed) to identify genetic abnormalities in the EGFR gene associated with lung cancer.

The test is highly specific and its results can be used to predict a patient’s response to treatment, allowing doctors to rapidly prescribe tailored treatments in line with NHS England’s goal to ensure personalised treatment and care for everyone diagnosed with cancer.  

University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), has introduced the test to its renowned cancer diagnostics laboratory. The new testing service gives more patients access to life-saving treatments with fewer side-effects than classic chemotherapy, improving quality of life for patients.

The Trust’s new service has been highly commended for adopting the pioneering approach by the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network’s innovation awards.

Dr Phillipe Taniere, Consultant Histopathologist at UHB which runs the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, said:
“Identifying mutations in blood samples has historically been a challenge due to the low frequency of cancerous cells in the sample. However this new, powerful technology from Roche Diagnostics has made it possible to take a simple blood sample and rapidly identify EGFR mutations in tumours’ DNA. We are delighted to be providing such an advanced service to our patients and leading the way in diagnostic capabilities in the region and the UK.”

Brigitte Fernandes-McAlear, Director of Molecular, Tissue and Sequencing, Roche Diagnostics, said: “University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust has made Roche’s breakthrough innovation a reality for doctors and patients, ensuring rapid genetic analysis of cancer and personalised therapy. It’s essential that pioneering diagnostic approaches such as these are adopted across the cancer care pathway to treat patients with the medicines they so urgently need.”

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Background Information

Latest statistics from Cancer Research UK show there were 46,400 new cases of lung cancer, the third most common cancer in the UK, in 2014. The test is a true gatekeeper for molecular therapies targeting EGFR abnormalities; identifies with fast turnaround patients eligible for targeted therapy, sparing them chemotherapy and the associated side effects.  Roche is proud to support laboratories and oncologists to improve the quality and life expectancy of patients.

About the cobas® EGFR Mutation Test v2 Ce-IVD

The cobas® EGFR Mutation Test v2 CE-IVD, identifies the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene in the DNA from non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients and is intended to be used as an aid in selecting patients with NSCLC for therapy with an EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI).

This innovative assay from Roche Molecular Diagnostics is the first to utilize plasma in addition to tissue as a sample type, thus removing common barriers to molecular testing, including surgery risks and sample availability. With clear, actionable results, the cobas®  EGFR Mutation Test v2 CE-IVD gives clinicians the information needed to make confident treatment decisions.

The cobas®  EGFR Mutation Test v2 CE-IVD comes with a new feature in the report called the Semi Quantitative Index, or SQI. This number is designed to reflect a trend in the EGFR mutation load. If frequently testing for the EGFR mutation using the test, tracking the SQI value and identifying a trend may lead to the understanding of tumor progression, an option not available in other tests.

About Roche

Roche is a global pioneer in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics focused on advancing science to improve people’s lives. The combined strengths of pharmaceuticals and diagnostics under one roof have made Roche the leader in personalised healthcare – a strategy that aims to fit the right treatment to each patient in the best way possible.

Roche is the world’s largest biotech company, with truly differentiated medicines in oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology and diseases of the central nervous system. Roche is also the world leader in in vitro diagnostics and tissue-based cancer diagnostics, and a frontrunner in diabetes management.

Founded in 1896, Roche continues to search for better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases and make a sustainable contribution to society. The company also aims to improve patient access to medical innovations by working with all relevant stakeholders. Twenty-nine medicines developed by Roche are included in the World Health Organization Model Lists of Essential Medicines, among them life-saving antibiotics, antimalarials and cancer medicines. Roche has been recognised as the Group Leader in sustainability within the Pharmaceuticals, Biotechnology & Life Sciences Industry eight years in a row by the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI).

The Roche Group, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, is active in over 100 countries and in 2016 employed more than 94,000 people worldwide. In 2016, Roche invested CHF 9.9 billion in R&D and posted sales of CHF 50.6 billion. Genentech, in the United States, is a wholly owned member of the Roche Group. Roche is the majority shareholder in Chugai Pharmaceutical, Japan. For more information, please visit www.roche.com.

All trademarks used or mentioned in this release are protected by law.

About University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust

UHB runs the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) and the original Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and hosts the Institute of Translational Medicine (ITM)

The Trust has approximately 1,400 beds, 32 theatres and a 100-bedded critical care until - the largest in Europe

The hospitals are a regional centre for trauma, burns, plastics, neurosciences and cancer and in 2014 became a lead genomics centre as part of the NHS 100,000 genomes project

UHB has the largest solid organ transplantation programme in Europe

In 2016/17, UHB cared for over 1 million patients and currently employs over 9,500 members of staff

UHB is a Foundation Trust and has over 23,000 members

UHB is proud to host the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM). The RCDM provides dedicated training for defence personnel and is a focus for medical research.

UHB also holds the contract for providing medical services to military personnel evacuated from overseas via the aero medical service. UHB is one of only a small number of hospitals that can provide the full range of medical specialties – trauma, burns, plastics, orthopaedics, neurosurgery, critical care - needed to treat the complex nature of conflict injuries, all under one roof.

The pioneering techniques in surgery and pain control that we have developed whilst treating military patients are recognised worldwide. These techniques are now being used for civilian surgery in the UK and elsewhere and are being progressed through the Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre (SRMRC).