Eager for early detection
July 2013
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author


LONDON—Cancer Research UK, its commercial arm Cancer Research Technology (CRT) and biomarker validation company Abcodia have announced a collaboration to develop new blood tests for early detection of a range of cancers. The goal of the strategic alliance will be to identify biomarkers that can enable pre-symptomatic cancer detection, and the partners will concentrate on cancers such as non-small cell lung cancer that currently have few screening tests available.
"We are delighted to be able to work with Cancer Research UK and CRT in this new global venture," Dr. Julie Barnes, CEO of Abcodia, said in a press release. "The early diagnosis of cancer has never been more important, and with the collective expertise that this alliance can bring, we hope to make a real difference in the field of early cancer detection and screening."  
Though genetic and acquired risk factors will also be investigated, Cancer Research UK, CRT and Abcodia have a particular interest in biomarkers that are expressed in serum, such as proteins, microRNAs, exosomes, autoantibodies and DNA methylation.  
That is where Abcodia comes in. In addition to its expertise in the longitudinal profiling of biomarkers, Abcodia also has the exclusive commercial rights to a biobank of serum samples. The samples come from more than 202,600 healthy women who took part in the United Kingdom Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening between 2001 and 2005, with each volunteer donating a serum sample on entry. Of those who participated, 27,000 were diagnosed with cancer following recruitment, and 50,000 women have continued to make serum donations annually for up to 10 years. With more than 5 million samples, the biobank is one of the largest prospective collections of serum samples available for biomarker research in the world. The duration of the sample period, from pre- to post-diagnosis, should provide biomarkers that show the biological changes that occur in the early stages of cancer.
"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," said Prof. Ian Jacobs, vice president at the University of Manchester, principle investigator of UKCTOCS and one of Abcodia's founders.
The partners will solicit partnerships in the United Kingdom and beyond with academic and industry organizations that can bring to the table biomarker technology that can help to discover, validate and further develop the biomarkers. Any biomarkers discovered under this alliance will be jointly commercialized by Abcodia and CRT, who will share revenues resulting from potential licensing deals with additional third parties. No financial terms were disclosed.  
"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," Dr. Harpal Kumar, CEO of Cancer Research UK, commented in a statement. "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."  
This is one of two recent biomarker collaboration announced by Abcodia in early June, with the second coming just days later. In keeping with its academic biomarker program, through which the company seeks to partner with the world's leading academic centers to examine biomarkers for early cancer detection or screening, Abcodia will be collaborating with the Austrian Institute of Technology to validate biomarkers for the early detection of lung and colorectal cancers.
Code: E071310

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