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IU research leads to new genetic test

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It took the identification of 19 different genes for researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine to develop a test for a rare form of cancer.

But their gene-hunting has paid off, as a Texas-based company announced Monday the test is available for doctors to use.

Dr. Sunil Badve, Dr. Patrick Loehrer and researcher Yesim Gökmen-Polar identified 19 genes that appear to forecast the chance that thymoma patients will develop a second tumor after the first is removed via surgery.

Thymoma refers to cancerous tumors in the thymus, which is in front of the heart and is part of the immune system. Thymoma affects only about 40 people each year in the United States.

The IU researchers licensed the test last fall to Friendswood, Texas-based Castle Biosciences Inc., a cancer molecular diagnostics company focused on rare and orphan cancers. Castle performed all the needed validation on the test.

The test, DecisionDx-Thymoma, could identify patients at low risk for a recurrence of thymoma, sparing them the pain of additional chemotherapy or radiation treatments after removal of their tumor. Such recurrence is known as metastasis.

“The ability to accurately assess metastatic risk based upon the thymoma’s molecular signature will enable personalizing therapeutic options,” said Loehrer, who is director of the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center. “This will assist in deciding which patients should receive post-operative therapy.”

Support for the IU research was also provided by the Indiana Clinical and Translational Science Institute and IU Simon Cancer Center.

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