Cambridge Healthtech Institute’s Ann Nguyen recently interviewed Rebecca (Becky) Suttmann of Genentech, Inc. Ms. Suttmann shares her presentation “Circulating Tumor Cells in the Peripheral Blood Decrease in Numbers with Treatment in Patients with Various Carcinomas” at the Circulating Markers in Cancer symposium during The Liquid Biopsy Summit, taking place June 22-24, 2016 in San Francisco, California.
Oncology Diagnostics Strategies at Genentech
Q1: Can you describe your path across industry work in immunology, cell biology and biomarker development to Genentech? What are the environment and resources there like for developing oncology diagnostics strategies involving identification and analysis of circulating tumor events?
I received my graduate degree in Pharmacology and my bachelor’s in Biochemistry. The first third of my career was spent doing enzyme biochemistry (purification, characterization and HTS). The second third on primary cell assays, signal transduction, whole blood and ex vivo pharmacodynamic assays. My enthusiasm for science was sparked by my efforts to discover a surrogate biomarker to follow in a clinical trial of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. There is so much to learn at the proteomic level (including posttranslational modifications). A second spark in interest came when I was asked to de-risk a series of kinase inhibitors by evaluating their effect on the innate immune cells. The innate immune system is fascinating and plays a key role in nearly every disease imaginable. I have committed the rest of my career to evaluating cells, extracellular vesicles and proteins in liquid biopsies (blood, urine, lymph, tissue aspirates) and do not discount the immune cells in this exploration.
Genentech possesses leading technology and excellent, supportive teams to allow for quick discovery and validation of biomarkers. We have onsite blood drawing available, a large, well-characterized cell-line storage facility, antibody production and conjugation capabilities and a large number of clinical trial samples available to aid in our discovery efforts. Genentech is serious about its commitment to enabling personalized medicine approaches and I am happy to be a part of it.
Q2: What do you consider the main challenges in using liquid biopsies for cancer diagnosis and treatment? Reliability of CTC/ctDNA detection and analysis approaches? Their technical standardization? Clinical validation? All of the above? Other?
It is important to understand that there is no single approach that will answer all our liquid biopsy questions. Evaluating CTCs has proven useful in assessing the severity of a cancer patient's disease. How you go about isolating these cells will depend on the cell type and what your downstream analysis will be. My personal challenge has been accurately quantifying markers of interest on these cells.
Q3: You’ll discuss “Circulating Tumor Cells in the Peripheral Blood Decrease in Numbers with Treatment in Patients with Various Carcinomas” during the Summit’s Circulating Markers in Cancer symposium on June 22. What’s the primary message you’d like to convey to your peers?
My main goal is to share with my peers the cancer indications where CellSearch proves useful for the evaluation of CTCs. I will provide data for the changes in CTCs with various treatments and the tendency for increases in CTC numbers at disease progression. I also hope that people will see the value of evaluating both CTCs and ctDNA in their biomarker programs.
Rebecca (Becky) Suttmann, MS, Senior Scientific Researcher, Oncology Biomarker Development, Genentech, Inc.
Rebecca “Becky” Suttmann, MS, is a research scientist with solid industry background in immunology, cell biology and biomarker development. Her current work at Genentech includes developing oncology diagnostics strategies that involve identification and analysis of circulating tumor events. Ms. Suttmann has happily spent her career in the research labs at Genentech, Roche and Syntex.
Learn more about Ms. Suttmann’s presentation during the Circulating Markers in Cancer symposium.