New Cancer Detection Technology in Development

January 4, 2011 Updated: January 10, 2011

[xtypo_dropcap]A[/xtypo_dropcap] new blood test that uses circulating tumor cell (CTC) technology to detect cancer is being developed. The study is a collaboration between Veridex, Johnson & Johnson, and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Circulating tumor cells are cancer cells that are no longer attached to the tumor and can be found in the bloodstream at very low levels. CTC technology is expected to capture, count, and characterize tumor cells in patients’ blood samples.

“This new technology has the potential to facilitate an easy-to-administer, non-invasive blood test that would allow us to count tumor cells, and to characterize the biology of the cells,” said Robert McCormack, head of Technology Innovation and Strategy at Veridex, in a press release issued by Johnson & Johnson.

“Harnessing the information contained in these cells in an in vitro clinical setting could enable tools to help select treatment and monitor how patients are responding,” he said.

Traditionally, patients must go through painful biopsy to get a diagnosis, and even then, the sample cannot determine what treatment the patient needs in order to control tumor growth. Doctors must experiment with several treatments and compare results to find which one is most effective for the patient. The process is often slow, and many patients do not survive until an effective treatment is found.

If the research is successful, doctors can use CTC technology to provide faster and more accurate diagnosis and can personalize treatments for each cancer patient, according to the press release.

For the collaboration to be successful, the partners will combine their efforts and expertise. Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) will conduct the CTC research, and Veridex will lead the clinical validation for future applications of the technology.

“The challenging goal of sorting extremely rare circulating tumor cells from blood requires continuous technological, biological and clinical innovation to fully explore the utility of these precious cells in clinical oncology,” said Dr. Mehmet Toner, director of the BioMicroElectroMechanical Systems Resource Center at the MGH Center for Engineering in Medicine, in the press release.

“We have developed and continue to develop a broad range of technologies that are evolving what we know about cancer and cancer care. This collaboration is an opportunity to apply our past learning to the advancement of a platform that will ultimately benefit patients with cancer.”

The partners are optimistic that the research could lead the way to more effective ways of prolonging cancer patients’ life spans and detecting, treating, or even curing the disease.