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Clearbridge’s liquid biopsy approach improves cancer diagnosis and treatment

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 5:54pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 5:54pm

Country Business Reports interviews and articles by Discovery Reports

Cancer incidence is rising at an alarming rate globally, with yearly new cancer cases forecast to skyrocket to 21.6 million by 2030 due to population growth and ageing, according to the World Health Organisation.

With cancer’s complex nature and its constant evolution over time and with each treatment, real-time monitoring of a patient’s cancer progression is critical in administering targeted therapies at the right time.

Focused on building a strong understanding of cancer biology and, ultimately, improving patient care, Clearbridge BioMedics – a Singapore-based clinical stage oncology research and diagnostics company – has developed a next-generation, non-invasive liquid biopsy approach for cancer screening, diagnosis, staging, personalised therapy management and treatment monitoring.

“Tissue biopsy is the standard method to understand the molecular make-up of cancer, but it’s a very onerous process,” says Dr Michael Paumen, CEO. “It is invasive, expensive and not applicable to all cancer types. It is a painful test endured by patients who are already suffering, but repeated testing is necessary because regimens need to be adjusted. At Clearbridge BioMedics, we’ve developed a non-invasive approach to obtain sample cancer cells from a routine blood draw, or liquid biopsy, instead of subjecting patients to costly and risky surgical biopsies.”

Launched in May 2014, Clearbridge BioMedics’ proprietary ClearCell FX System utilises enriched circulating tumour cells (CTCs) from a simple blood draw. These extremely rare cells detach from solid tumours, travel in the bloodstream and play a significant role in metastasis – the main cause of cancer-related deaths. By capturing and studying CTCs, real-time information about the cancer disease status is obtained, thereby opening the possibility of early screening and the initiation of timely, tailored treatment before the disease spreads.

A robust platform that is suitable for research and clinical diagnostic applications, ClearCell FX is one of the world’s first automated cell retrieval systems that can enrich wholly intact and viable CTCs from a small blood sample in under an hour. The system works in conjunction with the CTChip FR, a microfluidic biochip that employs a label-free technique to separate CTCs based on inertial characteristics such as size and deformability relative to other blood components. To date, the platform has been deployed in the United States, Europe, Japan, China and Hong Kong. ClearCell FX is also CE-IVD-marked for diagnostic use.

While there are other CTC systems based on the label-free approach, what sets ClearCell FX apart are its cell viability and consistently high CTC capture rate. The system can be easily integrated with downstream molecular analyses and diagnostic assays, allowing cancer researchers to better understand CTCs and cancer metastasis biology – and potentially develop new cancer treatments.

“For our platform to be successful, it is imperative that we understand the different application landscapes and our target markets,” says Dr Andrew Wu, chief operating officer. “We work closely with oncologists, pathologists, researchers and clinicians to learn their workflow, understand how they diagnose tumour cells, and provide them an easy modality.”

The platform is already in use at OncoSeek, a clinical diagnostic services company in Hong Kong. OncoSeek is one of the first commercial providers to routinely use Clearbridge BioMedics’ liquid biopsy platform for real-time cancer monitoring and precision medicine, serving customers in Hong Kong.

Founded in 2009, Clearbridge BioMedics is a spin-off from the National University of Singapore/the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology.

Clearbridge BioMedics has standing collaborations with Sysmex Corp, Japan; Institute of Cancer Research, Britain; John Wayne Cancer Institute, US; Beijing Genomics Institute, China; and the European CANCER-ID Consortium.

“Asia remains one of our growth focus areas,” Paumen says. “We welcome partnerships with distributors and industry players with strong oncology expertise, complementary offerings, in-depth local market understanding and established networks in their respective markets across the region.”,