Epic Sciences, Inc. announced receipt of a Phase II contract from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The contract will fund the further development of an assay to identify and characterize circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in lung cancer patients. The results of this contract are expected to provide a basis for the development of new cancer diagnostic products.
“The highly competitive SBIR program funded by federal research dollars is essential for translating innovative technologies into products that can improve the health, well-being and security of the nation,” said David Nelson, Ph.D., president and CEO of Epic Sciences. “Epic will use the SBIR funds to further develop and clinically validate a new diagnostic test to detect and characterize lung cancer using a blood-based test based on our advanced rare-cell detection platform technology. Epic’s technology, as applied both in this contract and with our eight pharmaceutical partners, is well positioned to have a major impact on the way cancer is diagnosed and treated.”
The research grant entitled, “Circulating Tumor Cell Enumeration Product,” builds upon the successful completion of a Phase I grant of the same name, which was previously awarded to Epic. The Phase I and II grants total approximately $1.2 million. In Phase I, Epic developed a clinically useful and commercially relevant method for identifying and enumerating CTCs. In Phase II, Epic will extend this work to finalize the diagnostic test and validate it clinically in patients with suspected lung cancer.
“The lungs are sensitive and difficult tissues to access for biopsies and, as a result, many patients lack adequate biopsy material for diagnostic testing. A blood test for lung cancer could provide a better tolerated, less risky, and more effective strategy for diagnosing lung cancer patients. Beyond finding cancer cells in the blood, the Epic test is also designed to molecularly characterize circulating tumor cells to guide personalize treatment options,” said Dr. Nelson. “Because a blood test can be performed repeatedly, we are also investigating the ability to monitor treatment effectiveness and disease status. Ultimately, we hope that these tests will help to get the right therapy to the right patient at the right time.”
About Circulating Tumor Cells (CTCs)
CTCs are cells that escape from solid tumors, enter the bloodstream where they travel and eventually cause cancer metastasis. Today, solid cancers are first detected by invasive biopsies, which cannot be used repeatedly and may be ineffective in understanding metastatic risk, disease progression, treatment effectiveness and recurrence identification. A blood test that can accurately detect and profile biomarkers on CTCs is easy to conduct frequently and should be able to provide essential, real-time information about disease status to tailor treatments to a patient’s specific cancer and response.