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Genomics England reports progress towards using liquid biopsies to detect cancer

By Paul Brackley

Progress towards the use of liquid biopsies for the diagnosis and tracking of cancer has been reported by Genomics England, which is working in collaboration with Inivata and Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Liquid biopsies could be used as a less invasive method of detecting cancer
Liquid biopsies could be used as a less invasive method of detecting cancer

A pilot project has assessed whether circulating tumour DNA samples collected during the 100,000 Genomes Project are suitable for analysis. DNA found in the bloodstream from cancerous tumours could provide a less invasive method of assessing whether cancer is present compared to standard tissue biopsies.

Granta Park-based Inivata and global scientific services firm Thermo Fisher Scientific studied 200 blood samples and confirmed they produced reliable results across all cancer types.

The project also demonstrated the capacity of the liquid biopsy technologies developed by the two companies to identify cancer.

The second phase of the project will objectively analyse the technologies of liquid biopsy companies, while the final phase will be a proof of concept longitudinal ctDNA sample study, designed to develop less invasive sample collection techniques, more effective monitoring processes and ultimately better cancer care.

Clive Morris, CEO at Inivata, said: “We are delighted to be working with Genomics England, and to see the progress being made with this collaborative study.

“The successful end of this initial phase demonstrates the quality of the sample collection from all sites and will enable the exploration of a number of ways of providing further insights to patients.

“Inivata and Genomics England share a commitment to delivering innovations to UK patients, unlocking exciting new treatment options and improving patient care.”

Joydeep Goswami, president of clinical next feneration sequencing and oncology for Thermo Fisher Scientific, said: “The application of liquid biopsy to better understand cancer holds great promise as a less-invasive and potential early detection approach for the future of patient care.”

Mark Caulfield,interim chief executive officer at Genomics England, said: “Our priority at Genomics England is to improve patient outcomes. The potential that liquid biopsies represent for earlier diagnosis and tracking of cancer is well documented, but nonetheless remains very exciting.

“There is still much to do to establish clinical utility and suitability of the technology. As we continue to carry out this work, we keep in mind what this means for patients – significantly less invasive procedures, and the potential to detect cancers much earlier and treat them much more effectively.”

Joanne Hackett, chief commercial officer at Genomics England, said: “Exploring new and developing technologies is central to our mission at Genomics England. If we are to keep the UK a world leader in the delivery of genomic medicine, it is going to be through collaborations such as this with leading technology companies. The results of the first phase of our liquid biopsy trials are very encouraging, and we look forward to further rigorous testing through phase two.”

The results of the project will be shared with researchers across the UK and around the world.

Inivata completes a £39.8m series B funding round in March.

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