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Penn, Epic Sciences Partner on Liquid Biopsies

Blood sample

(Public Domain Pictures/Pixabay)

13 November 2015. University of Pennsylvania’s medical school plans to apply liquid biopsy technology developed by Epic Sciences to gain a more detailed understanding of different cancers for individual patient therapies. Financial terms of the agreement between the university and the San Diego biotechnology company were not disclosed.

Epic Sciences’s technology detects and analyzes circulating tumor cells in routine blood samples to determine the status and nature of an individual’s cancer as it spreads from the primary tumor site. Metastasis — the spread of cancer from its primary site to other places in the body — is the leading cause of mortality in patients with cancer.

Tracking cancer metastasis today requires taking small tissue samples with surgery, called biopsies, for analysis by pathologists. Epic’s technology makes it possible to use blood samples, a much less invasive approach, and thus easier to administer. The company says its technology identifies and quantifies changes in the genetic composition of tumors and the proteins they express. In addition, says Epic, its approach can indicate if the identified cancer cells are susceptible or resistant to various cancer drugs.

In this project, Epic is working with Erica Carpenter and colleagues from the Penn medical school’s circulating tumor center. Carpenter’s lab studies circulating tumor cells for earlier cancer detection, better tracking of a patient’s response to therapy, and determining physical or biochemical traits based on genetic composition of cancer tumors. Carpenter’s team plans to employ Epic’s technology to gain a more detailed understanding of various cancer types, in particular connecting genomic characteristics to changes in biomarkers, key factors in identifying effective drugs for a patient.

Epic Sciences is a spin-off enterprise from Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. The company’s technology is based on research on circulating tumor cells in the lab of Peter Kuhn, now at University of Southern California. Epic says it developed some 30 analytical tests designed to detect genomic abnormalities and measure proteins expressed in circulating tumor cells for 20 types of cancer. These molecular tests have been used so far with more than 10,000 blood samples from individuals in North America, Europe and Asia.

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