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25 September, 2012 - 08:04 By Tony Quested

Personalised cancer treatment breakthrough

Clearbridge BioMedics is a spin-off from the National University of Singapore

Cambridge technology is at the heart of a new diagnostic device that can detect tumour cells from a simple blood sample – opening up the route to new personalised cancer treatments.

Cambridge Consultants in the UK is working with Clearbridge BioMedics in Singapore on the rapid testing device.

Clearbridge’s second-generation ClearCell System enables tumour cells to be retrieved and detected even faster, and potentially more accurately.

The low-cost non-invasive ‘liquid biopsy’ draws on the diagnostic device expertise of Cambridge Consultants – particularly in the fields of microfluidics and automation control – to give early warning of the spread of the disease.

It detects circulating tumour cells (CTCs) in the bloodstream that have detached from a patient’s primary tumour – even at concentrations of as low as one in a billion blood cells.

Early detection of these CTCs can increase patients’ chances of survival – and tracking the cell count over time could help ensure treatment is more effective.

The new testing device has also solved the technical challenge of retrieving the cells intact – offering detailed insight into the exact nature of the cancer and its unique characteristics, and so paving the way for a new generation of personalised cancer treatments to fit the needs of each patient’s unique tumour biology.

Duncan Bishop, programme director in the Medical Technology division of Cambridge Consultants, said: “It is a tribute to our world-leading track record in diagnostic device development that we have been approached from Singapore to help with this development work.

“We can also offer a complete end-to-end solution, including blood handling, rapid prototyping and manufacturing trial devices, which is invaluable to start-up companies.”

Clearbridge BioMedics is a spin-off from the National University of Singapore and the first member of the Clearbridge Accelerator technology incubator, which is supported by the Singapore government’s National Research Foundation and SPRING Singapore. The company has customers spanning Asia, Europe and North America.

There were an estimated 12.7 million new cancer cases diagnosed around the world in 2008 – the latest year for which figures are available – and 7.6 million deaths. The number of cases is expected to increase to 21 million by 2030.

The spread of the disease around the body is the major cause of death from cancer. But the traditional diagnosis method of a tumour biopsy often involves invasive surgery and cannot easily detect whether the disease has spread.

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