Manchester joins European consortium to develop liquid biopsies

23 Apr 2015

Scientists from the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute will participate in CANCER-ID, an international project to validate blood-based biomarkers for cancer.

Blood-based biomarkers are potential tools to assess the tumour burden of cancer
Blood-based biomarkers are potential tools to assess the tumour burden of cancer

Blood-based biomarkers such as circulating tumour cells (CTCs), circulating free tumour DNA (cfDNA) and microRNAs (miRNAs) are potential tools to assess the tumour burden of cancer patients in a minimally-invasive manner. They offer an invaluable tool for modern cancer medicine: in addition to allowing biopsies of tumour tissue that is otherwise inaccessible, blood-based tests may aid follow-up of disease, allowing doctors to monitor the efficacy of treatment and potentially improve decisions regarding therapy.

CANCER-ID is a newly formed European consortium funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) with currently 33 partners from 13 countries aiming to establish standard protocols for and clinical validation of blood-based biomarkers. It brings together experts from academic and clinical research, innovative small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs), diagnostics companies and the pharmaceutical industry, thus providing a unique setting for establishing clinical utility of ’liquid biopsies‘.

Coordinating the international consortium, with a total budget of EUR 14.5 million, are University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, University of Twente, Bayer HealthCare and Menarini. Joining them are researchers from the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute at The University of Manchester – part of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre – led by Professor Caroline Dive.

Professor Dive said: “We have a strong reputation in research into circulating tumour cells. We are excited to join this impressive European consortium and look forward to contributing to the establishment of blood-based biomarkers into routine clinical practice.”

The academic leads of the CANCER-ID consortium are Professor Klaus Pantel, from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany, and Professor Leon Terstappen, based at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. The EFPIA lead companies of the CANCER-ID consortium are Bayer HealthCare and Silicon Biosystems, A Menarini Group Company.

Professor Pantel said: “Blood-based analysis of tumour derived cells and nucleic acids offers a novel concept of liquid biopsies which allows clinicians to receive real-time information relevant to cancer diagnosis and therapy. The CANCER-ID project fills the substantial gap between basic research focused on novel methods for the detection and characterisation of circulating tumour cells and nucleic acids and the development of robust validated assays required to bring the liquid biopsy concept into the clinic.”

Cancer is one of The University of Manchester’s research beacons - examples of pioneering discoveries, interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that are tackling some of the biggest questions facing the planet.

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