Triple boost for cancer diagnosis consortium
Two North American biomarker specialists and a major European institute have bolstered a UK-driven campaign to fight killer cancers.
The trio have joined the Early Diagnosis Consortium – a collaboration between Cancer Research UK, its commercial arm, Cancer Research Technology, and Cambridge-based Abcodia, which validates biomarkers for the early detection and screening of cancer.
The decision follows completion of a pilot phase to evaluate leading technologies for their ability to discover biomarkers that can detect cancer in its earliest stages, long before symptoms appear, when treatment is most likely to be effective.
The technologies were tested against serum samples selected from a biobank of more than five million serum samples, collected from women as part of the UKCTOCS trial, to which Abcodia has exclusive commercial access.
Based on these findings, the three new organisations involved will be Caprion from Quebec, which specialises in proteomics; Asuragen in Austin, Texas which uses next-generation sequencing to find circulating microRNAs, and the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology using its tumour auto-antibodies platform.
This next stage of the programme will focus on identifying biomarkers for colorectal, lung, oesophageal and pancreatic cancers, chosen because of the limited availability of screening tests for these cancers and patients’ poor survival when diagnosed at a late stage.
Dr Julie Barnes, chief executive of Abcodia, said: “We are excited to work with these world leading companies to bring their cutting edge technology to this endeavour.
“The application of such technologies to biomarker discovery in longitudinal samples donated before the clinical presentation of cancer is a real innovation and has the potential to make a real difference to the field of early cancer detection.”
Professor Ian Jacobs, vice president at the University of Manchester, principal investigator of UKCTOCS and one of the founders of Abcodia, added: “Cancers that are diagnosed at a later stage are much more difficult to manage, so I am delighted to see the progress that this consortium is making.
“The experiments aimed at identifying biomarkers that could form simple, non-invasive tests for early cancer detection represent an ideal use of the biobank developed through UKCTOCS.”
And Dr Keith Blundy, chief executive of Cancer Research Technology, said: “After a successful pilot, we are delighted to be able to bring additional technological capability into this collaborative effort, to add to the clinical, scientific and commercial expertise of existing partners.
“The biobank derived from UKCTOCS is providing us with the opportunity, through this initiative, to potentially unlock a future in which thousands of cancer cases could be detected and treated before symptoms emerge.”
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Dr Julie Barnes