Prostate Test Going Ahead, Hopkins Scientist Says

Dr. Robert Getzenberg, research director at Johns Hopkins Brady Urological Institute, said this morning that the EPCA-2 prostate cancer blood test is moving ahead and the law suit filed against him and the University of Pittsburgh is "for money."

We spoke with Dr. Getzenberg by phone at 9.50 this morning after leaving a message yesterday with his staff. He returned the call from his Johns Hopkins office, sounding up-beat.

"The science remains the same," Getzenberg said about the progress of the EPCA-2 prostate cancer diagnostic test. "Everything is solid."

Earlier this month, Onconome, a Redmond, WA biotechnology company, filed suit claiming that Getzenberg concocted results of laboratory studies on EPCA-2 and "cherry-picked" evidence.

Onconome in its early days was known as Tessara. At one time, Dr. Gezenberg said, he was on the company's scientific advisory board.

Dr. Geztenberg said today that his laboratory ended its connection with Onconome in early 2008 and has had no further connection with them. He is in process of seeking a new partner to develop the test, he said.

"Others are very supportive, and we're still very excited," he said.

Onconome has not yet presented evidence to back its claims that "Between 2002 and 2008," while he "acted as chief scientific developer, and also chief spokesperson to Onconome’s investors," Dr. Getzenberg falsified his scientific results.

Getzenberg lab at Johns Hopkins

A story about Dr. Getzenberg's new laboratory in Hopkins' Discovery Magazine before news of the law suit broke says Maria and Andre Jakurski and the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation contributed generously to help open the new, state of the art 12,000-square-foot facility for collaborative research on heat treatments for metastatic cancer.

"Safeway’s customers raised $3 million, in donations made at checkout. The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) developed the collaborative research partnership and matched this money, dollar for dollar. The PCF will also bring in expertise from scientists at the University of Washington, from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and from Emory University. 'Everyone who has input will be invited to the table,' says Jonathan Simons, M.D. -- a Hopkins-trained oncologist and Brady alumnus -- CEO and President and David H. Koch Chair of the PCF. 'We are literally turning up the heat on metastatic prostate cancer.'"

Getzenberg told Discovery that he and his colleagues were moving "aggressively" on EPCA-2 biomarker, "working hard to make it available to men with prostate cancer, and to men who are being tested for it."

The Hopkins publication states that this marker "has proven to be more sensitive than PSA, and a more specific test for prostate cancer. In early tests, it also performed better than PSA in showing which men had organ-confined cancer, and which men had cancer that had spread beyond the prostate".

"One aspect of our work has been to increase its throughput, so they can run a large number of samples in a short period of time," Getzenberg says in this interview with the Hopkins' publication. He said they had conducted several clinical trials, including one in which they were able to correlate a man’s level of EPCA-2 with his likelihood of responding to radiation therapy. "We are also in the final stages of determining the most appropriate large commercial partner to develop the test for patients."