Researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Exact Sciences recently announced that they have created a partnership with the goal of developing a blood test that targets biomarkers associated with lung cancer (LC). This test would be utilized to screen nearly 11 million Americans considered high risk smokers and former smokers, in an effort to detect LC early, which is the key to saving lives.
- Biomarker: short for biological markers, are the measures used to perform a clinical assessment. Examples include blood pressure or cholesterol level, that are used to monitor and predict patient’s health status.
According to the World Health Organization, LC is a leading cause of death worldwide. In the US alone, it accounts for close to 160,000 deaths annually. Unfortunately, LC is silent in the early stages, making it hard to detect. This leads to the majority of LC cases being diagnosed at an advanced stage when it is harder if not impossible to treat.
In a company press release about the importance of this partnership, Dr. Sam Hanash, MD, PhD, director of MD Anderson’s Red and Charline McCombs Institute for the Early Detection and Treatment of Cancer, stated “Lung cancer is, and will continue to be, America’s leading cancer killer unless we identify new approaches to diagnose it early, at its most treatable stages. Our collaboration with Exact Sciences provides a great opportunity to create tests that could shift the lung cancer detection paradigm for the benefit of patients.”
Dr. Hanash and his research team plan to test a variety of biomarkers including DNA, proteins, metabolites, and autoantibodies, with the goal of choosing the best performing biomarkers to successfully detect LC early.
In an explanation of what this partnership means to Exact Sciences, Kevin Conroy, Exact Sciences’ Chairman and CEO, said “Our common vision is to help win the war on cancer through early detection. Taking on lung cancer offers an opportunity to build on the success of Cologuard. A simple blood test to complement a CT scan could significantly improve early-stage lung cancer detection. Our experience working with regulators and insurers coupled with MD Anderson’s world-class research and development capabilities are an ideal match to make a meaningful difference in the war on cancer.”
This partnership is a product of work done through MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program. The program utilizes the expertise of over 175 faculty members including clinicians, surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, pathologists and basic and translational researchers, all working to change the clinical landscape of cancer.
“Wouldn’t it be great to have a blood test as our first line of defense? If the blood test signals possible cancer, then, and only then, would patients be sent for further testing,” explains Dr. Hanash. For all stakeholders involved in LC treatment from patients to healthcare providers Dr. Hanash’s vision gives hope that decreasing LC’s mortality rate may be a possibility just over the horizon.
Inspired by America’s drive a generation ago to put a man on the moon, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has launched an ambitious and comprehensive action plan called the Moon Shots Program to make a giant leap for patients — to rapidly and dramatically reduce mortality and suffering in several major cancers.
The nation’s top-ranked hospital for cancer care, with its unparalleled resources and capabilities, is uniquely positioned to accelerate the end of cancer
About Exact Sciences
Exact Sciences Corporation is a molecular diagnostics company focused on the early detection and prevention of the deadliest forms of cancer. The company has exclusive intellectual property protecting its noninvasive, molecular screening technology for the detection of colorectal cancer. Cologuard is included in the colorectal cancer screening guidelines of the American Cancer Society and stool DNA is included in the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer.