Imperial has partnered with healthcare company DNA Electronics (DNAe) to develop a new platform for monitoring breast cancer.
The technology could enable earlier detection of recurrent or unresponsive cancer by bringing genomic analysis out of specialist laboratories and to the point of need, where it would be used to detect and sequence tumour DNA from blood samples.
The partnership will make use of research into biomarkers – molecules found in the blood that can signal the progression of disease – carried out at Imperial and the University of Leicester. By combining this research with DNAe’s proprietary ‘sample to answer’ technology, the aim is to develop a test that can return results within hours.
Charles Coombes, Professor of Medical Oncology at Imperial, said: “Cancer monitoring is a vital component of successful treatment. Firstly, we need to ensure a patient’s tumor is responding to the therapy, and secondly, patients in remission must be monitored for signs of recurrence. The current monitoring options are slow, and any delays to appropriate cancer care can lower the chance of survival and increase treatment-associated problems and costs. Although we are at the early stages, I believe that DNAe’s integrated, sequencing-based platform could ultimately provide rapid, actionable information that saves patients’ lives.”
Imperial’s collaboration with DNAe has been formalised in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) awarded by Innovate UK as part of a programme that connects innovative businesses with academic experts who can help deliver their ideas. Under the partnership, a postgraduate researcher will be based at DNAe to integrate expertise from Imperial and the University of Leicester into the development of the test.
The KTP will build on an existing collaboration between Professor Coombes in Imperial’s Department of Surgery and Cancer and Professor Jacqui Shaw from the University of Leicester, who is also a Visiting Professor at Imperial. It will also build on existing ties between Imperial and DNAe, which has labs in the White City Campus and was co-founded in 2003 by Imperial’s Professor Chris Toumazou using research carried out at the College.
Samuel Reed, CEO of DNAe, said: “Recognizing that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re delighted to formally announce our collaboration with world experts Professors Coombes and Shaw who bring their extensive knowledge of using circulating tumor DNA to manage the treatment of breast cancers. Through this KTP award, we will be able to harness that deep expertise and combine it with our proven diagnostic technology.”
Professor Jacqui Shaw, Head of the Department of Genetics and Genome Biology at the University of Leicester added: “This is an exciting collaboration with DNAe and Imperial, where we will combine our expertise to develop a rapid integrated liquid biopsy platform for management of patients with breast cancer.”
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