Novel approach aims to identify patient subgroups within Multiple Myeloma

NORWALK, Conn. and PHOENIX, Ariz. - April 2, 2012 - The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) today announced a unique oncology research partnership. This multi-year agreement involves several partners including the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), Spectrum Health, and the Van Andel Research Institute (VARI).

The collaboration will provide a broad range of genomic services and analyses to help drive the success of the landmark 1000-patient study on the molecular segments and variation of multiple myeloma which has been launched by the MMRF.

Under the agreement, TGen will provide a central hub where patient samples will be analyzed using an unprecedented breadth of genomics platforms. The data to emerge from this work will provide the most comprehensive view of myeloma at the molecular level and will enable the research community to better understand what drives a patient's response to treatment or disease progression and will also generate new leads for targeted drug development.

The MMRF began enrolling patients in the landmark study CoMMpass (Relating Clinical Outcomes in MM to Personal Assessment of Genetic Profile) last year through a network of academic and community clinical centers. Study participants will provide an initial tissue sample at the time at which they are newly diagnosed, and will provide follow-up tissue samples at the time of first and additional relapse. Sequential analysis of these tissue samples will shed new light on the relationship between molecular variation and patients' response or resistance to therapy.

"We are proud to support the MMRF's unparalleled research initiative, which has tremendous potential to make a significant difference in the way multiple myeloma is treated," said Dr. John Carpten, Ph.D., Professor and Director of TGen's Integrated Cancer Genomics Division. "The rigor and breadth of this effort will enable a much more sophisticated understanding of the molecular changes that give rise to myeloma, and that affect a patient's course of disease. We believe the collective data to emerge along the way will provide an invaluable resource for innovators to design the next significant breakthroughs against this incurable disease."

Analyses during the study will also apply and build on insights from the Multiple Myeloma Genomics Initiative (MMGI) sequencing project to identify specific subgroups of multiple myeloma patients. For example, the study will involve sequencing tissue samples using techniques perfected in the MMGI and will test for mutations activating the BRAF gene, which were found in a small percentage of multiple myeloma patients in the sequencing project.

"We are excited to build on our earlier partnership with TGen. Their dedicated commitment to multiple myeloma genomic research and earlier achievements will play a critical role in the success of this initiative," said Dr. Louise M. Perkins, Ph.D., MMRF's Chief Scientific Officer. "The strong collaboration of academia, the clinical community and industry in this landmark project will enable us to translate new information into improved treatment approaches more efficiently and effectively than ever before."

TGen will work with VARI to centrally collect and store tissue samples and extract DNA and RNA from samples for next-generation sequencing analysis including whole-genome and RNA-sequencing. Using the Program for Biospecimen Science and its biorepository at VARI, Dr. Scott Jewell's program will use collection and biobanking best practices to centrally manage the collection and biobanking for this study. VARI will process the specimens, isolate the cancer cell population and prepare derivatives for genomic analysis at TGen. VARI will use the VARI/TGen bioinventory software to assist in the tracking and management of the biospecimens throughout the life of the project.

Spectrum Health, which is accredited by the College of American Pathology and is also a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) laboratory, will provide the BRAF gene analysis and a flow cytometric immunophenotype of each patient's myeloma using state-of-the art analytics in its clinical diagnostics laboratory.

"We are very excited to be a partner in this effort to determine how to conquer this disease," said Lisa A. Shannon, Chief Operating Officer of Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids. "This is very important research and we are proud to lend our expertise and experience to the effort. Partnerships like this expand the opportunity for success in conquering diseases like multiple myeloma."

This study is currently enrolling patients at clinical centers throughout the U.S. For more information about participation in the study, visit

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About Multiple Myeloma
Multiple myeloma is an incurable blood cancer. The five-year relative survival rate for multiple myeloma is approximately 34 percent, one of the lowest of all cancers. In 2012, more than 21,000 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma and nearly 11,000 people are predicted to die from the disease.

About the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF)
Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) was established in 1998 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization by twin sisters Karen Andrews and Kathy Giusti, soon after Kathy's diagnosis with multiple myeloma. The mission of the MMRF is to relentlessly pursue innovative means that accelerate the development of next-generation multiple myeloma treatments to extend the lives of patients and lead to a cure. As the world's number-one private funder of multiple myeloma research, the MMRF has raised over $190 million since its inception to fund nearly 120 laboratories worldwide, including 70 new compounds and approaches in clinical trials and pre-clinical studies and has facilitated more than 35 clinical trials through its affiliate organization, the Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium (MMRC). As exceptional stewards of its donors' investments, the MMRF has been consistently recognized for its sound fiscal management. For more information about the MMRF, please visit

About the Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium
The Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium (MMRC) is a 509(a)3 non-profit organization that integrates leading academic institutions to accelerate drug development in multiple myeloma. It is led from MMRC offices in Norwalk, Conn., and comprises 16 member institutions. Barbara Anne Karmanos Cancer Institute, Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center at Dallas, City of Hope, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute, the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center, Mayo Clinic, Ohio State University, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Sarah Cannon Research Institute, University Health Network (Princess Margaret Hospital), University of California-San Francisco, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, Virginia Cancer Specialists, and Washington University in St Louis.

The MMRC was founded in 2004 by Kathy Giusti, a myeloma patient, and with the help of the scientific community. The MMRC is a sister organization to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), the world's leading funder of multiple myeloma research. The MMRC is widely recognized as an optimal research model to rapidly address critical challenges in drug development and to explore opportunities in the today's most promising research areas in genomics, compound validation, and clinical trials. The MMRC is the only consortium to join academic institutions through membership agreements, customized IT systems, and an integrated tissue bank. For more information, please visit

About TGen
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. Research at TGen is focused on helping patients with diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes. TGen is on the cutting edge of translational research where investigators are able to unravel the genetic components of common and complex diseases. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities, TGen believes it can make a substantial contribution to the efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit:

About Spectrum Health
Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system in West Michigan offering a full continuum of care through the Spectrum Health Hospital Group, which is comprised of nine hospitals including Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, a state of the art children's hospital that opened in January 2011, and 190 service sites; the Spectrum Health Medical Group and West Michigan Heart, physician groups totaling more than 600 providers; and Priority Health, a health plan with 625,000 members. Spectrum Health is West Michigan's largest employer with more than 18,000 employees. The organization provided $176.5 million in community benefit during its 2011 fiscal year.

About Van Andel Research Institute
Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent research and educational organization based in Grand Rapids, Mich., dedicated to preserving, enhancing and expanding the frontiers of medical science, and to achieving excellence in education by probing fundamental issues of education and the learning process. Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI) is dedicated to strengthening science education and preparing and motivating individuals to pursue science or science-related professions. Van Andel Research Institute (VARI), the research arm of VAI, is dedicated to probing the genetic, cellular and molecular origins of cancer, Parkinson's and other diseases and working to translate those findings into effective therapies. This is accomplished through the work of over 200 researchers in 18 on-site laboratories and in collaborative partnerships that span the globe. More information:

About the Multiple Myeloma Genomics Initiative
The MMGI is a $12 million, six-year program that comprises several research and discovery efforts spanning the spectrum of genome science. The MMRC contributes patient samples from its 16 collaborating academic members via a centralized Tissue Bank; the MMRF provides funding for the project. The comprehensive genomic survey of MMRC samples is conducted in collaboration with the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). The MMGI comprises several research and discovery efforts spanning the spectrum of genome science. Array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH), gene expression profiling (GEP), DNA methylation analysis and DNA sequencing are among the assays performed on hundreds of patient multiple myeloma tumor tissue. Data from the MMGI and other multiple myeloma genomics efforts is available to the scientific community through the Multiple Myeloma Genomics Portal, the world's only myeloma-specific repository of genomic data (

To continue the momentum of these study findings, the MMRF has granted Biotech Investment Awards to two organizations focused on epigenetic targets. Altogether, the MMRF is investing more than $5 million in programs to drive the rapid translation of these findings into effective treatments for multiple myeloma.

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