Averion International, a US-based contract research organisation (CRO) formed in August 2006 from the merger of Averion Inc, IT&E International and Millennix Inc, has added another layer to its international oncology offering by partnering with Brazilian drug development services company Biocancer.

Under a non-exclusive agreement, the two companies will jointly market and contract complementary services to biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Founded in 2003 and with a base in Brazil’s third largest city, Belo Horizonte, Biocancer is a full-service site management and clinical research organisation with a focus on oncology.

Oncology is also a core competence at Averion, which offers these services under its Millennix Oncology brand. In January the US company announced a comparable strategic alliance with Apothecaries Ltd, a CRO based in New Delhi, India and also focusing on oncology services.

Expands reach

The agreement with Biocancer “expands our reach in South America, providing us with access to leading clinical sites and large patient populations”, commented Dr Philip Lavin, Averion’s chief executive officer. “In line with our strategy to achieve rapid market growth, we plan to continue building on our international oncology CRO offering through strategic partnerships and acquisitions.”

The company’s medical director, Dr Howard Goldsweig, recently pointed out that “one of the major bottlenecks” in bringing new drugs from the bench to the clinic was intense competition in the US for patients eligible and willing to take part in clinical trials of cancer therapies. An analysis of National Cancer Institute Cooperative Group trial enrolment from 1998-1999 had shown that only around 2.5% of adult cancer patients in the US participated in oncology studies, he noted.

The cure for lagging enrolment was “to think globally”, Goldsweig said. “The practice and standards of medicine in the academic centres in Latin America and Asia are equivalent to those of the US and EU, allowing trial protocols to be immediately transferable and results acceptable to the FDA and EU regulatory authorities,” he commented. “With today’s telecommunications infrastructure and web-enabled remote data entry, distance from the central data warehouse has become irrelevant.”

Higher enrolment rate

Addressing the Annual Conference of the Institute of Clinical Research in Birmingham, UK, earlier this year, Dennis Hurley of CRO Kendle International noted that the total population of Latin America was more than 500 million, compared with 330 million in North America and 370 million in Central and Eastern Europe. Moreover, the enrolment rate per site in Latin America was on average three to five times that in the US. At 10%, discontinuation rates for studies of more than one year’s duration were one third those in the US, Hurley added.

As well as its US headquarters in Southborough, Massachusetts, Averion has US office locations in New York, Philadelphia and San Diego, European offices in Germany, the UK and Austria, and operations in Poland.