A blood test that was scarcely heard of two years ago is quickly emerging as an alternative to the often painful practice of using needles or surgery to sample a patient’s tissues for signs of cancer.
Scientists from San Diego to Boston said the new “liquid biopsies” can easily detect potentially harmful tumor cells and mutated DNA traveling through the bloodstream.
The tests show so much promise that analysts estimate the market for liquid biopsies could soar to $12 billion within a decade. It’s now a $100 million industry that’s being strongly driven by San Diego’s clutch of life-science companies.
Today, Pathway Genomics will become the sixth local business to market or announce plans for a liquid biopsy test to aid patients or pharmaceutical companies.
Pathway is introducing CancerIntercept, which is designed for cancer patients and survivors. The product will also be offered to healthy people at risk for developing the disease.
“This is a highly sensitive test which may catch a lot of tumors,” said Jim Plante, founder and chief executive of Pathway. “It’s now also possible to monitor and guide treatment of previously diagnosed cancer patients.”
The excitement is pervasive, but it’s being tempered by a hard reality: Scientists and companies have yet to prove that liquid biopsies broadly enable doctors to significantly improve patient care. Further clinical evaluations are under way at places like UC San Diego’s Moores Cancer Center.
“We need to do more than just say cancer cells were found,” said Ivor Royston, a San Diego oncologist and managing member of Forward Ventures, a life-science venture capital company. “We need clinical studies that show that liquid biopsies can help doctors choose the right drug, at the right time, to stop cancer.”
He added: “This is an emerging technology, but it’s emerging fast. It’s nice to see San Diego taking a lead in the field.”
(Click here to read the full article, written by Gary Robbins, SD Union Tribune)