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29 July, 2013 - 08:30 By Tony Quested

Cancer detection hope in medical alliance

Dr Julie Barnes

A medical technology alliance between Abcodia in Cambridge and Cellmid in Sydney is targeting earlier diagnosis of colorectal cancer. Testing will follow for other forms of cancer.

Abcodia is a biomarker pioneer while Cellmid holds the largest and most comprehensive portfolio of intellectual property related to midkine – an extensively validated therapeutic and diagnostic target in inflammation, autoimmunity and cancer.

Australian Stock Exchange-listed Cellmid has been actively seeking partners to commercialise midkine and Abcodia was swift to spot the potential of a business collaboration.

The partnership focuses on the assessment of midkine in pre-diagnosis serum samples. Abcodia has exclusive access to a unique biobank of five million serum samples collected through the UK collaborative trial for ovarian cancer screening.

The biobank was derived from 200,000 initially healthy volunteers. Since first recruitment, more than 27,000 individuals have been diagnosed with cancer. A subset of 50,000 individuals within the 200,000 cohort have provided samples annually, making this a unique longitudinal resource for testing midkine levels early, even before symptoms appear.

The collaboration agreement allows for the testing of multiple cancer indications, but initially targeting the early detection and screening of colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer ranks third in incidence and second in cancer-related mortality in the United States.

Although the five-year survival rate for stage one cancers is as high as 74 per cent, for stage four cancers, when the cancer has metastasized, this reduces to just six per cent. Early diagnosis of colorectal cancer, before the spread to the lymph nodes and distant sites, is vital to reduce death rates.

Midkine has been extensively validated as a biomarker in a range of other cancers. It has been shown to appear very early in some solid tumours with demonstrated utility in disease management and monitoring. Since 2012 midkine has been commercially used as one of the biomarkers in CxBladder®, a diagnostic test for the monitoring of bladder cancer patients.

Abcodia CEO, Dr Julie Barnes, said: “Midkine is an intriguing marker and I hope that we can reveal an interesting profile in the early pre-symptomatic phase of colorectal cancer.

“The uptake of current screening methods for colorectal cancer (colonoscopy and haemoccult testing) is low and a simple blood test could help significantly improve early diagnosis and therefore improve treatment outcomes.”

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Dr Julie Barnes

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