Oxford Nanopore and MATRIX, the Norwegian Centre for Clinical Cancer Research, collaborate to advance precision cancer medicine research

MATRIX’s first official research collaboration will explore the clinical value of Oxford Nanopore’s DNA and RNA sequencing technology in precision cancer medicine

Oxford Nanopore Technologies plc (Oxford Nanopore) and the Norwegian Centre for Clinical Cancer Research – MATRIX – today announce a research collaboration to explore the clinical value of nanopore sequencing in precision cancer medicine.

The agreement between Oxford Nanopore and MATRIX will initially focus on tumours of the central nervous system and be conducted at Oslo University Hospital (OUH) under the direction of Professor and senior physician Hege Russnes, who leads the national precision diagnostics in cancer programme in Norway (InPreD) in close collaboration with neuropathologist Pitt Niehusmann. This collaboration will focus on DNA methylation-based classification in central nervous system (CNS) tumours, detection of somatic and pathogenic copy number variants and tumour heterogeneity of gene expression, mutations and fusions at a single cell level.

Nanopore sequencing is uniquely positioned to enable methylation and copy number variation through sequencing the native DNA and long-read fragments respectively, providing unparalleled richness of biological content in real time and reducing the turnaround time for clinical tests. All of these insights are provided in a single sequencing run, enabling the streamlining of certain cancer indications, such as brain tumours, where methylation-based tumour classification is important in both diagnosis and treatment of these tumours.

Hard-to-treat cancer patients in clinical trials based on advanced molecular diagnostics is rapidly moving towards routine clinical care in Norway. Sequencing DNA and RNA from patients’ tumours can reveal a number of genetic abnormalities that subsequently has the potential to open up more precise treatment opportunities, using targeted drugs.

Cancer patients in Norway who may benefit from experimental treatment can be offered molecular genetic analyses of the tumour tissue. Integration into the public health system of established diagnostics and experimental treatment is supported by the health authorities. Since InPreD was launched in April 2021, more than 1200 patients have had such examinations and approximately a third of these patients have been offered experimental treatment in clinical trials. The clinical trial centre MATRIX will test diagnostics and novel trial designs that have a potential for implementation in InPreD.

The collaboration will use Oxford Nanopore’s PromethION 24 device, which provides 24 independently addressable, high-output flow cells. Nanopore sequencing provides scalable platforms, and this technology could potentially be deployed across the different hospitals in Norway, ensuring that sequencing is performed close to the patients and clinical reports can be returned quickly.

Gordon Sanghera, CEO, Oxford Nanopore Technologies, commented:

“We are really excited to be collaborating with MATRIX to explore the clinical value of nanopore sequencing technology in precision cancer medicine. By reading the native DNA, nanopore sequencing can deliver richer insights into cancer genomics than ever before, through areas such as methylation. Together with the ability to sequence any-fragment-length of DNA, we expect to reveal new biological insights that have not been possible with other sequencing technologies. We look forward to seeing the outcome of this work and the future potential to improve precision cancer medicine.”

Professor Åslaug Helland, Director MATRIX, commented:

“MATRIX continuously tests and develops new, ground-breaking molecular, functional and clinical analyses that will shape next-generation trials in precision cancer medicine. In this context, we are very pleased to enter into a research collaboration with Oxford Nanopore Technologies to test out their sequencing technology within this field”.

Professor Hege Russnes, MATRIX and Head InPreD, commented:

“The ability to test the technology and assays developed by Oxford Nanopore through these projects is very exciting for us. It is important to be able to utilise instrumentation both for research and diagnostics as it enables us to move knowledge and assays into routine use when feasible. The increasing need for genome information, that includes epigenetics, demands tailored solutions”.

MATRIX is the latest addition to the Norwegian ecosystem within precision cancer medicine, which in addition to InPreD also includes IMPRESS-Norway, a national researcher-initiated clinical trial opened in April 2021, which contributes to targeted cancer treatment based on precision diagnostics. Altogether, 17 hospitals in Norway with cancer departments participate in this trial in addition to CONNECT, a public-private partnership driving the implementation of precision cancer medicine.

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