FDA Clears Vermillion’s “OVA1” Test To Determine Likelihood of Ovarian Cancer In Women With Pelvic Mass

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared a test that can help detect ovarian cancer in a pelvic mass that is already known to require surgery. The test, called OVA1, helps patients and health care professionals decide what type of surgery should be done and by whom.

First Lab Test That Can Indicate Ovarian Cancer Prior To Biopsy Or Exploratory Surgery

U.S. Food & Drug Administration

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the OVA1™ Test, the first blood test that, prior to surgery, can help physicians determine if a woman is at risk for a malignant pelvic mass. OVA1 is the first FDA-cleared laboratory test that can indicate the likelihood of ovarian cancer with high sensitivity prior to biopsy or exploratory surgery, even if radiological test results fail to indicate malignancy.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the OVA1™ Test [formerly, the Ovarian Tumor Triage Test], the first blood test that, prior to surgery, can help physicians determine if a woman is at risk for a malignant pelvic mass. OVA1 is the first FDA-cleared laboratory test that can indicate the likelihood of ovarian cancer with high sensitivity prior to biopsy or exploratory surgery, even if radiological test results fail to indicate malignancy. The test was developed by Vermillion, Inc. (formerly, Ciphergen Biosystems, Inc. ), a molecular diagnostics company, in cooperation with Quest Diagnostics, the world’s leading provider of cancer diagnostics. Quest Diagnostics, which is a long-time investor in research and development of the OVA1 technology, has exclusive rights to offer the test to the clinical reference laboratory market in the U.S. for three years.

“When combined with other clinical information, the OVA1 biomarker panel can help assess the likelihood of malignancy of an ovarian tumor before surgery and facilitate decisions about referral to a gynecologic oncologist,” said Frederick R. Ueland, M.D., principal investigator of the prospective, multi-center OVA1 clinical trial. Dr. Ueland is an associate professor gynecologic oncology at the University of Kentucky‘s Markey Cancer Center.

The OVA1 Test is an in vitro diagnostic multivariate index [assay] (IVDMIA) test that combines the results of five immunoassays using a proprietary unique algorithm to produce a single numerical score indicating a women’s likelihood of malignancy. The OVA1 Test provides a new option in the pre-operative evaluation to help physicians assess if a pelvic mass is benign or malignant in order to help determine whether to refer a woman to a gynecologic oncologist for surgery. Numerous clinical practice guidelines recommend that women with ovarian cancer be under the care of a gynecologic oncologist. However, only an estimated one third of women who undergo surgery for possible ovarian cancer are referred to these specialist surgeons for their surgery.(1)

Vermillion received the Society for Gynecologic Oncologists (SGO) Basic Science Poster Award for an abstract on the performance of its OVA1 Test presented at SGO’s 38th Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer in 2007. In reviewing the test application, the FDA evaluated results of a prospective, double-blind clinical trial which included 27 demographically mixed sites representative of institutions where ovarian tumor subjects may undergo a gynecological examination.

“Surgery in the hands of a gynecologic oncologist is usually associated with more favorable patient outcomes,” said Jon R. Cohen, M.D., chief medical officer and senior vice president, Quest Diagnostics. “Physicians often do not know if a woman’s pelvic mass is malignant or benign until she undergoes surgery. The OVA1 Test is the first FDA-cleared blood test to help clinicians determine whether to refer a woman to a gynecologic oncologist or have a gynecologic oncologist present at the time of surgery. We believe this test will help drive more favorable patient outcomes.”

“Unfortunately, advances in ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment are few and far between. It is fitting that September, Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, marks FDA’s clearance of OVA1, a test that represents an important step forward toward improved outcomes,” said Gail S. Page, executive chairperson of the board of directors of Vermillion. “Quest Diagnostics had the foresight to recognize the potential value of this novel multivariate assay and supported its development. We look forward to collaborating to bring this new diagnostic option to the many women who will benefit from specialist care.”

Ueland

"When combined with other clinical information, the OVA1 biomarker panel can help assess the likelihood of malignancy of an ovarian tumor before surgery and facilitate decisions about referral to a gynecologic oncologist," said Frederick R. Ueland, M.D., principal investigator of the prospective, multi-center OVA1 clinical trial. Dr. Ueland is an associate professor gynecologic oncology at the University of Kentucky's Markey Cancer Center.

The FDA clearance of OVA1 makes Quest Diagnostics the only diagnostic testing company to offer FDA cleared tests for ovarian cancer in the pre- and post-surgical settings. In addition to offering the OVA1 Test, Quest Diagnostics was the first laboratory company to provide a new lab test that the FDA cleared in the third quarter of 2008 as an aid for monitoring for recurrence of epithelial ovarian cancer.

The OVA1 Test will be available for physician use in the fourth quarter of this year.

Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths in women.(2) Approximately 21,600 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2009, and approximately 14,600 women will die of the disease.(3)

About the OVA1 Test

The OVA1 Test is a qualitative serum test that combines the results of five immunoassays into a single numerical score. It is indicated for women who meet the following criteria: over age 18, ovarian adnexal mass present for which surgery is planned, and not yet referred to an oncologist. The test utilizes five well-established biomarkers — Transthyretin (TT or prealbumin), Apolipoprotein A-1 (Apo A-1), Beta2-Microglobulin (Beta2M), Transferrin (Tfr) and Cancer Antigen 125 (CA 125 II) — and a proprietary algorithm to determine the likelihood of malignancy in women with pelvic mass for whom surgery is planned.

The OVA1 Test is an aid to further assess the likelihood that malignancy is present when the physician’s independent clinical and radiological evaluation does not indicate malignancy. The test should not be used without an independent clinical/radiological evaluation and is not intended to be a screening test or to determine whether a patient should proceed to surgery. Incorrect use of the OVA1 Test carries the risk of unnecessary testing, surgery, and/or delayed diagnosis.

About Vermillion

Vermillion, Inc. is dedicated to the discovery, development and commercialization of novel high-value diagnostic tests that help physicians diagnose, treat and improve outcomes for patients. Vermillion, along with its prestigious scientific collaborators, has diagnostic programs in oncology, hematology, cardiology and women’s health. Vermillion is based in Fremont, California. Additional information about Vermillion can be found on the Web at www.vermillion.com.

About Quest Diagnostics

Quest Diagnostics is the world’s leading provider of diagnostic testing, information and services that patients and doctors need to make better healthcare decisions. The company offers the broadest access to diagnostic testing services through its network of laboratories and patient service centers, and provides interpretive consultation through its extensive medical and scientific staff. Quest Diagnostics is a pioneer in developing innovative diagnostic tests and advanced healthcare information technology solutions that help improve patient care. Additional company information is available at www.QuestDiagnostics.com.

(1) Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 98, No. 3, February 1, 2006

(2) Greenlee RT, Murray T, Bolden S, Wingo PA. Cancer statistics, 2000. CA Cancer J Clin. 2000;50(1):7-33

(3) 2009 American Cancer Society [Leading Sites of New Cancer Cases and Deaths—2009 Estimates]

Contacts:
Quest Diagnostics:
Media: Wendy Bost 973-520-2800
Investors: Kathleen Valentine 973-520-2900

Vermillion:
Jill Totenberg, he Totenberg Group Tel: 212 994 7363
jtotenberg@totenberggroup.com

Select FDA Comments:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today cleared a test that can help detect ovarian cancer in a pelvic mass that is already known to require surgery. The test, called OVA1, helps patients and health care professionals decide what type of surgery should be done and by whom.

OVA1 identifies some women who will benefit from referral to a gynecological oncologist for their surgery, despite negative results from other clinical and radiographic tests for ovarian cancer. If other test results suggest cancer, referral to an oncologist is appropriate even with a negative OVA1 result.

OVA1 should be used by primary care physicians or gynecologists as an adjunctive test to complement, not replace, other diagnostic and clinical procedures.

OVA1 uses a blood sample to test for levels of five proteins that change due to ovarian cancer. The test combines the five separate results into a single numerical score between 0 and 10 to indicate the likelihood that the pelvic mass is benign or malignant.

OVA1 is intended only for women, 18 years and older, who are already selected for surgery because of their pelvic mass. It is not intended for ovarian cancer screening or for a definitive diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Interpreting the test result requires knowledge of whether the woman is pre- or post-menopausal.

Sources:

Lost In Translation? FDA Believes That LabCorp’s Ovarian Cancer Early Detection Test (OvaSure) Lacks Adequate Clinical Validation

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a letter to the Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp) on August 7, 2008, stating that it believes the Yale ovarian cancer early detection test (marketed by LabCorp under the name OvaSure™) ” … has not received adequate clinical validation, and may harm the public health.” In that letter, the FDA invites LabCorp to discuss all validation studies that support the marketing of the OvaSure™ test.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a letter to the Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp) on August 7, 2008, stating that it believes the Yale ovarian cancer early detection test (marketed by LabCorp under the name OvaSure™) “… has not received adequate clinical validation, and may harm the public health.” In the letter, the FDA invites LabCorp to discuss all validation studies that support the marketing of the OvaSure™ test. The August 7 FDA letter appears to reflect a previously announced, yet controversial, change in FDA policy. Libby’s H*O*P*E*™ reported previously on the development of the Yale ovarian cancer early detection test [March 14, 2008], and LabCorp’s subsequent market release of that test under the name OvaSure™ [June 23, 2008].

On August 19, 2008, the Oncology STAT™ news service reported that the August 7 FDA letter was posted on the website of the Office of In Vitro Diagnostic Device Evaluation and Safety (OIVD) on August 15, but was removed from the site a few days later. On August 22, 2008, we identified the “cached” copy of the August 7 FDA letter on the OIVD website. The August 7 FDA letter is provided below in its entirety.

The August 7 FDA letter was issued by OIVD and informs LabCorp that “[i]t appears that you are marketing the Ovasure™ Test with performance characteristics (specifically, 95.3% sensitivity and 99.4% specificity) that are identical to those reported in a research study published by Visintin, I. et al., in the February 15 edition of Clinical Cancer Research (Visintin, I. et al., Clin Cancer Res. 2008 Feb 15;14(4):1065-72.).” The OIVD Director, Steven Gutman, M.D., M.B.A., states that the Visintin, I. et. al ” … research was carried out, and performance derived, on two populations that are strongly clinically biased for being healthy and normal, and for having already experienced ovarian cancer.” Based upon this rationale, the OIVD concludes that it does not believe “… the scientific community would consider the reported study sufficient to establish performance characteristics of a test in high risk women who might have ovarian cancer, i.e., in a clinical setting, as claimed in your intended use and promotional materials.”

Historical FDA Policy Regarding Laboratory-Developed (“Home Brew”) Tests

Based upon historical FDA policy, LapCorp would not be required to obtain FDA premarket or postmarket approval for the OvaSure™ test because the early detection test would be categorized as a “laboratory-developed test” (also referred to as a “home brew” test) under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA). In general, the CLIA establishes quality standards for all laboratory testing to ensure the accuracy, reliability and timeliness of patient test results regardless of where the test is performed.

Prior to 2006, the FDA did not exercise its authority to regulate home brew tests, which are developed by a laboratory for in-house use as a test service. The reasons are likely twofold. First, the FDA believed that the regulatory oversight exercised by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) with respect to the laboratories (under CMS jurisdiction pursuant to CLIA), ensured that such laboratories were competent to properly manufacture and use home brew tests without additional FDA intervention. Second, the FDA possessed regulatory authority to review the primary ingredients or components in the home-brew tests (known as “analyte specific reagents” (ASRs)), and did not believe that further test regulation was necessary.

Announcement of FDA Policy Change For Select In Vitro Diagnostic Assays

In 2006, and again in 2007, the FDA issued draft guidance (entitled, Draft Guidance for Industry, Clinical Laboratories, and FDA Staff: In Vitro Diagnostic Multivariate Index Assays) in which, for the first time, the agency exercised its authority to regulate select in vitro diagnostic multivariate index assays (“IVDMIAs”) that are developed and manufactured by clinical laboratories for their own use (i.e., laboratory-developed tests/home brew tests). An IVDMIA is a diagnostic laboratory assay or test that utilizes mathematical formulae to interpret genetic and protein data required for the generation of information used to make critical diagnosis and treatment decisions for patients. IVDMIAs, for FDA regulatory purposes, are classified as medical devices under the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (FDCA), and therefore, can be subject to premarket and postmarket regulation. IVDMIAs developed and manufactured by commercial, non-laboratory-based companies are currently regulated by the FDA. The majority of IVDMIAs, however, are developed and manufactured by laboratories for their own use as home brew tests.

Under the FDA draft guidance, home brew IVDMIAs would in many cases require 510(k) pre-market clearance or Pre-Market Approval (PMA). In addition, these same IVDMIAs would have to comply with “device” post-market manufacturing and reporting requirements. The August 7 FDA letter does not state that a 510(k) pre-market clearance or Pre-Market Approval is required; rather OIVD invites LabCorp to discuss any “validation strategies” undertaken beyond the research results reported by Visintin, I. et. al. LabCorp is not the only company affected by the FDA policy change. The FDA also used its change in regulatory policy to prevent Correlogic Systems, Inc. from marketing its ovarian cancer early detection test, known as OvaCheck®, without prior FDA approval. Arguably, the FDA is placing the OvaSure™ and OvaCheck® ovarian cancer early detection tests on equal regulatory footing.

Ever-Increasing Sophistication of Genetic and Proteomic Assay Technology

The emergence and increased use of IVDMIAs using novel technology (e.g., proteomics) as an integral part of patient diagnosis and treatment, and their direct advertisement to consumers, may have influenced the FDA to conclude more recently that the current level of oversight with respect to genetic and proteomic testing by laboratories was inadequate. Assuming the FDA position is correct, inadequate federal oversight could lead to significant issues related to the quality and validity of IVDMIAs.

LabCorp Amendment of OvaSure™ “Use” Information

LabCorp recently amended its intended use and promotional materials to provide that the OvaSure™ test cannot be used by a woman who has had both ovaries removed (i.e., a woman who previously had a bilateral oophorectomy). Specifically, LabCorp intends that the OvaSure™ test be used to identify a woman who is at “high-risk” for ovarian cancer; however, an ovarian cancer survivor who is currently in remission, cannot use the OvaSure™ test to screen for a recurrence of the disease if her ovaries were removed as part of her first-line treatment after the initial ovarian cancer diagnosis. CLICK HERE to view Libby’s H*O*P*E* post (with updates) dated June 23, 2008, regarding the OvaSure™ test use and limitation information as amended.

Letter to the President and Chief Executive Officer of LabCorp

August 7, 2008
Via FedEx

David P. King
President and Chief Executive Officer
Laboratory Corporation of America
430 South Spring Street
Burlington, North Carolina 27215

Dear Mr. King:

It has come to our attention that you are currently marketing the OvaSure™ Yale Ovarian Cancer Test, also advertised as the OvaSure™ For Women at High-Risk for Ovarian Cancer, and OvaSure™ For Women at High-Risk for Ovarian Cancer, (Serial Monitor), (collectively referred to hereafter as the OvaSure™ Test) which is intended to be used as a tool to identify high-risk women who might have ovarian carcinoma. It appears that you are marketing the OvaSure™ Test with performance characteristics (specifically, 95.3% sensitivity and 99.4% specificity) that are identical to those reported in a research study published by Visintin, I., et al., in the February 15 edition of Clinical Cancer Research (Visintin, I. et al., Clin Cancer Res. 2008 Feb 15;14(4):1065-72.). We note that this research was carried out, and performance derived, on two populations that are strongly clinically biased for being healthy and normal, and for having already experienced ovarian cancer. Based on the available information, we do not believe the scientific community would consider the reported study sufficient to establish performance characteristics of a test in high risk women who might have ovarian cancer, i.e., in a clinical setting, as claimed in your intended use and promotional materials.

Based on our review of your promotional materials and the research publication cited above, we believe you are offering a high risk test that has not received adequate clinical validation, and may harm the public health. We would like to discuss with you your offer of this test, and any validation strategies you have undertaken beyond those reported in the publication cited above.

We look forward to discussing this with you, and are committed to working with you as we strive to protect the public health without unnecessarily imposing regulatory burdens on the marketing of products of potential clinical importance.

Sincerely yours,

/S/

Steven I. Gutman, M.D., M.B.A.
Office Director
Office of In Vitro Diagnostic Device Evaluation and Safety
Center for Devices and Radiological Health

Comments:

  • The corporate and governmental intrigue surrounding the FDA regulatory issues with respect to the OvaSure™ and OvaCheck® ovarian cancer early detection tests would make for a thrilling Hollywood screenplay, except for the catastrophic fact that approximately 15,000 U.S. women die annually from ovarian cancer due to the lack of a reliable early detection test. Because of the latter, approximately 80 percent of women are not diagnosed until they are in advance stages of the disease.
  • The FDA’s current – and still evolving – policy signals a strong possibility that previously unregulated diagnostics could require FDA approval or clearance prior to marketing as well as being subject to other medical device requirements under the FDCA.
  • It is critical for the FDA to take whatever action is necessary to protect U.S. public health. It is also essential that ovarian cancer survivors, clinicians and all affected corporate entities receive clear, consistent regulatory guidance and prompt action from the FDA with respect to this potential life-saving matter.

Sources:

Updates:

  • September 9, 2008: The FDA recently reposted on its website, a copy of the August 7th letter to the President and Chief Executive Officer of LabCorp regarding OvaSure™. To view a copy of the letter, CLICK HERE.