GeneCentric and Collaborators at Washington University Advance Academic-Industry Head and Neck Cancer Partnership under NCI Grant

In Clinical Studies News by Barbara Jacoby

Source: GeneCentric Therapeutics, Inc.


GeneCentric Therapeutics, Inc. today announced that it has entered the second phase of an academic-industry collaboration with Jose Zevallos MD, MPH, Chief of the Division of Head and Neck Oncologic Surgery in the Department of Otolaryngology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

This collaboration is funded by a National Cancer Institute (NCI) R01 grant, awarded in August 2017 to Dr. Zevallos. The grant supports the investigation of novel approaches to improve outcomes for patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Titled “Development of a Four-Class, Molecular Subtyping Diagnostic for HPV-Negative Head and Neck Cancer,” the grant is focused on the development of a clinic-ready tumor subtyping diagnostic test, in collaboration with GeneCentric Therapeutics, that will guide treatment decisions for patients with HPV-negative HNSCC.

The HPV-negative subtyper being applied under this NCI grant is a modified version of GeneCentric’s previously-developed Head and Neck Cancer Subtype Profiler (HNSP™). Following successful completion of phase 1 development of a reduced gene-set signature, GeneCentric is poised to commence phase 2 validation studies with Dr. Zevallos and his team. The last stage of the NCI grant, phase 3, entails final confirmation of the HNSCC diagnostic test and commercialization.

“This research has the potential to impact treatment for a broad range of patients with head and neck cancer. Our aim is to better identify cancers that are resistant to radiation therapy. We also hope the test will more accurately identify patients with occult lymph node metastasis and help surgeons make more informed decisions on when surgery to remove neck tumors should be offered to patients,” said Dr. Zevallos of the NCI sponsored partnership with GeneCentric.

About GeneCentric Therapeutics Head and Neck Cancer Subtyping Platform (HNSP)

Head and neck cancer, a group of cancers that starts within the mouth, nose, throat, larynx, sinuses, or salivary glands, is the seventh most common of all cancers. Because the majority begin in squamous cells which line the moist surfaces inside the head and neck areas, such cancers are also referred to as Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinomas (HNSCC).

These cancers comprise a heterogeneous disease with multiple tumor types, and correspondingly varying prognoses and treatment responses. Advanced HNSCC is associated with a 40-50 percent recurrence rate following primary treatment. Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection is an important risk factor, but infection is present in only a subset of cases and knowledge of HPV status alone is not sufficient to guide treatment. Better classification tools are needed to inform therapeutic choices and improve survival. To address this critical need, GeneCentric has applied its Cancer Subtyping Platform (CSP®) to develop a comprehensive profile of head and neck tumor subtypes that can guide drug development, clinical trials and patient treatment. The GeneCentric Head and Neck cancer Subtype Profiler (HNSP™) consists of five distinct subtypes, including one specific to HPV-related HNSCC, as determined through our research.

About GeneCentric Therapeutics, Inc.

GeneCentric Therapeutics, Inc., based in Research Triangle Park, N.C., is an RNA-based genomic services provider. A key focus of GeneCentric is the application of proprietary technologies to identify drug responder populations that enable the development of precision cancer drugs while improving patient outcomes. Our initial approach applies our Cancer Subtype Platform (CSP®) to parse the complexity of tumor biology and generate genomic signatures. This approach yields high-resolution cancer subtypes with the potential to function as universal biomarkers for susceptibility to immune-based, targeted and other therapies. In commercializing our technology through strategic collaborations with pharmaceutical and biotech companies, we are defining responder populations based on subtypes throughout the drug development cycle. For more information, please visit

About the Zevallos Lab at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO

The Zevallos Laboratory is interested in identifying molecular drivers of carcinogenesis of HPV-positive oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma with poor oncologic outcomes, including patients with dual exposure to HPV and tobacco. The laboratory seeks a broad understanding of factors related to cancer susceptibility using knowledge derived from epidemiologic studies as well as fundamental cellular and molecular biology. For more information, please visit