Thomas Edmonds, Laboratory Manager of the Oncology Department of the Servier Research Institute located at Croissy sur Seine, in France, outlines how vital the Institute’s research is in advancing our understanding of cancer and developing new types of therapies that work at cellular level. State-of the art laboratory equipment, such as PHCbi’s ULT Freezers and CO2 Incubators, is essential in supporting the cell-based methods that are core to this research. Servier’s oncology research aims to find new treatment options for both solid tumours and blood cancers, but is particularly focused on three main areas of innovation: Immuno-oncology – an approach to treating cancer that uses the body’s immune system to help fight the cancer; targeted therapies - therapies targeting cellular signals that underpin phenomena, such as cell proliferation, apoptosis, angiogenesis, and the capacity for tissue invasion and metastatic spread; and apoptosis – the normal process of programmed cell death that occurs in multicellular organisms, but is disturbed in people with cancer. The three areas are emerging as key therapeutic fields for tackling cancer in a new and targeted way.
“There is a very real and growing global need for therapies that account for the fact that every patient’s immune system is unique,” remarked Thomas. “We are progressing in our understanding of the tumour environment and developing of new therapies to restore normal cell death in cancer cells.”
Working at the forefront of oncology
Servier has a growing portfolio in immuno-oncology. Its R&D pipeline already comprises eight new molecules that target solid tumours and various types of leukaemia and lymphoma in clinical development, and two new molecular entities in a pre-clinical stage of development. For example, Servier recently joined forces with an American pharmaceutical company to commercially develop a monoclonal antibody that can educate the body’s immune system to recognise and kill malignant melanoma cells in a variety of ways.
One particularly promising example of from Servier’s apoptosis research portfolio is a compound currently known as S63845. The compound targets a specific protein found in malignant cells. This protein, referred to as MCL1, allows many cancerous cells to sustain growth and ‘by-pass’ the process of apoptosis that normally removes cancer cells from the body. Recently published research results have shown that S63845 blocks the MCL1 protein in up to a quarter of all cancers.
This research suggests there might be a groundbreaking new way to efficiently kill cancerous cells that holds promise for the treatment of blood cancers, such as acute myeloid leukaemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma, as well as solid cancers, such as malignant melanoma and cancers of the lung and breast.
Equipped for success
To progress such ground-breaking and potentially life-saving research, Servier works in close collaboration with many other laboratories worldwide. It partners with academic research institutes, biotechnology- and pharmaceutical companies from all over the world. Above all, an exceptional level of reliability and security is required of the laboratory equipment that it uses within its research facilities.
“We rely on cell-based methods in our research,” said Thomas. “We constantly search for new technologies that can enable us to progress our research. However, performance, safety and reliability are key. PHC Europe B.V. has remained our main supplier for ultra-low temperature storage and CO2 gas incubators for the laboratory for the last eight years and there is no reason to change this. It is so involved in our everyday processes and we do not need to question its capabilities.”
Top in quality comparison
“Initially we were attracted by PHCbi’s advanced technology. In 2008, we were introduced to the VIP technology developed for PHCbi’s ULT Freezers. Later on, we were introduced to PHCbi’s incubators with H2O2 sterilisation,” he explained. “I already knew the PHC Europe B.V. sales person before we purchased the equipment and I trusted him. Together, we performed a trial with other brands to compare the quality of the systems. We tested three pieces of equipment.”
The trial revealed that PHCbi’s VIP -80°C Freezer (the U73V model at the time) achieved less energy consumption when compared to two other brands, and was slimmer, but offered the same capacity.
“We are now using the latest -86°C TwinGuard line from PHCbi and are 100% happy with it,” remarked Thomas.