CANCER RESEARCH UK and its commercial arm, Cancer Research Technology (CRT), have joined forces with Abcodia, the biomarker validation company with a focus on cancer screening, to develop new blood tests to detect a range of cancers when they are still at a very early stage.
The strategic alliance will focus on biomarkers to detect cancers before patients develop symptoms, concentrating on cancers which currently have limited screening tests available, such as non-small cell lung cancer.
Detecting cancer earlier will give doctors the best chance to treat cancer effectively, before the disease develops and spreads when it becomes more difficult to treat. Identifying patients at an early stage will also provide the scientific and pharmaceutical communities with the ability to select patients for the development of a new generation of anti-cancer medicines.
The partnership combines Cancer Research UK’s extensive clinical oncology and scientific network with Abcodia’s expertise in the longitudinal profiling of biomarkers, as well as its exclusive access to one of the world’s largest prospective collections of serum samples available for biomarker research. This collection is derived from the UK Collaborative trial for Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS) created at UCL and contains more than five million serum samples. The trial is part funded by Cancer Research UK.
The samples in the collection have been taken from healthy people annually and in many cases, up to 10 years prior to a cancer diagnosis. The collaboration will use these samples to select biomarkers which provide a clear indication of change in the early pre-diagnosis stages of disease.
Cancer Research UK, CRT and Abcodia will seek partnerships in the UK and internationally, with academic and commercial organisations which have leading-edge biomarker technology, to discover, validate and further develop the markers.
Dr Julie Barnes, Abcodia’s CEO, said: “We are delighted to be able to work with Cancer Research UK and CRT in this new global venture. The early diagnosis of cancer has never been more important and with the collective expertise that this alliance can bring, we aim to make a real difference in the field of early cancer detection and screening.”
The alliance is particularly interested in seeking markers that may be expressed in serum; for example, proteins, microRNAs – regulators of gene expression, exosomes – cell-derived vesicles, autoantibodies – antibodies targeting an individual’s own proteins, and DNA methylation – a molecular switch to turn DNA on and off. Both genetic and acquired risk factors will also be investigated.
Abcodia and CRT will jointly commercialise any biomarkers discovered during the collaboration and share revenues resulting from potential licensing deals with additional third parties.
Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “Earlier detection of cancer remains a huge challenge but also a tremendous opportunity. We know that for most types of cancer, the earlier we detect them, the greater the chance of being able to treat them effectively and successfully. Furthermore, treating earlier stage disease is usually associated with fewer side effects from treatment for our patients. The scope and scale of this alliance, aimed at developing new tests for a range of cancers at their earliest stage, before symptoms develop, is very exciting. The combination of expertise formed by this partnership provides a great opportunity to accelerate this vital biomarker research, which we hope will help save thousands of lives from cancer.”
Professor Ian Jacobs, vice president at the University of Manchester, director of UKCTOCS and an Abcodia founder, said: “I’m delighted that the biobank developed through UKCTOCS will be used for such an important collaborative venture which has potential to yield important discoveries and to benefit patients through early detection across a range of cancers.”
Dr Keith Blundy, Cancer Research Technology’s chief executive, said: “This important alliance combines Cancer Research UK’s clinical expertise, with the commercialisation expertise of both Abcodia and CRT. Together with additional technology partners, we hope to be able to identify early detection biomarkers that will enable patients to be treated as soon as possible, ultimately saving lives.”
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The UKCTOCS Biobank
UKCTOCS is the UK Collaborative trial for Ovarian Cancer Screening. The biobank derived from this trial contains over 5,000,000 serum samples, derived from more than 200,000 initially healthy volunteers. Since recruitment, more than 27,000 individuals have been diagnosed with cancer. A subset of the cohort (50,000 individuals) has provided samples annually, making this an ideal resource for identifying biomarkers for early cancer detection and screening.