Study to determine if early cancer can be detected with blood test

Micrograph of an ovarian clear cell carcinoma. Photo by: Nephron, CC.

UBC-developed technology will be utilized during a pilot study organized by the BC Cancer Agency to determine whether it is possible to detect early signs of cancer with a simple blood test.

By using a new method to detect DNA from cancer cells in the blood of volunteers with no known disease, the Cancer DNA Screening Pilot Study (CANDACE) will attempt to validate a simple and inexpensive screening blood test that could alert individuals to the presence of early cancers that might otherwise go undetected until symptoms develop.

The technology, developed by UBC spin-off company Boreal Genomics, can detect 96 common mutations seen in at least eight cancer types including lung, breast, colorectal, ovarian, pancreatic, skin, bladder and endometrial cancers, and may detect other cancers as well.

“We have invented a very powerful technology for extracting a small number of cancer DNA molecules from the large amounts of normal DNA present in everyone’s blood,” says Andre Marziali, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UBC and Chief Science Officer of Boreal Genomics. “This enrichment for tumor DNA has enabled us to develop a highly sensitive test for tumor DNA in blood that promises to be a revolutionary cancer screening tool.”

For many types of cancer, early detection means more treatment options and better outcomes. Most population-based cancer screening methods such as mammography and colonoscopy are used to search for a single type of cancer. For other cancers, such as pancreatic or ovarian cancer, routine screening methods do not yet exist or are not clinically practical.

The CANDACE study is led by the BC Cancer Agency in collaboration with the University of British Columbia, Boreal Genomics, the BC Generations Project and Pathway Genomics. The study is expected to be completed and results gathered by September 2017.

“This enrichment for tumor DNA has enabled us to develop a highly sensitive test for tumor DNA in blood that promises to be a revolutionary cancer screening tool.”

Sachi Wickramasinghe
Multimedia Specialist, UBC Media Relations
sachi.wickramasinghe@ubc.ca
604 822 4636