While visiting CHI’s Molecular Medicine Tri-Conference back on February 20th at the Moscone Convention Center, in San Francisco, I had a chance to walk around the exhibit hall and talk with some of the people working at their trade show booths.
I spoke with Sally Hall, who was working at the Transgenomic, Inc. booth, and asked her, “What are some of the hot topics at the show?.” She said that it seems that this year, a hot topic at the CHI MMTC is about circulating tumor cells (CTCs). Sally said that “this year there are about twenty companies working in this field.”
I mentioned that I noticed that the number of conference talks about CTCs at the CHI MMTC had grown over the last three years. She agreed that she had seen increased research activity in the CTC field.
As I understand it, when cancer tumors reach a certain size or age, some of the cells break off and migrate through pores in the walls of blood vessels and circulate in the blood stream as CTCs. The CTCs may remain dormant for months or years in the circulatory system before migrating through pores in the blood vessels to spread to other organs or tissues.
Scientists are using CTCs as a new type of biomarker. Several research tools and technology companies have developed technology platforms to identify, isolate or characterize CTCs.
Some companies are working to develop a platform that utilizes CTCs as basis for a future personalized diagnostic. Researchers might someday develop blood tests that can accurately identify specific kinds of cancer tumors long before they spread to other organs. Blood test based companion diagnostics might be developed using CTCs in concert with targeted medicines to kill tumor cells before a cancer tumor has a chance to spread.
On the other side of the exhibit hall, I spent a few moments to see a talk from the founder of Rarecells, Inc.who discussed their progress in developing a CTC-based diagnostic method that they called ISET. I was impressed by their concept. The table below lists a few of the commercial companies working in CTCs. Whereas the CTC field is an emerging niche market today, it may be too soon to tell what the size and shape that this market might take.
Selected companies working in CTCs
|Clinical Use of CTCs||Fluxion Biosciences, Inc.||IsoFlux system for analyzing CTCs|
|Clinical Use of CTCs||On-Q-ity, Inc.||Microfluidic system for selecting CTCs|
|Clinical Use of CTCs||BioCept, Inc.||OncoCEE™ Platform for capture and detecting CTCs for molecular analysis|
|Clinical Use of CTCs||Rarecells, Inc.||ISET, a diagnostic method for isolation and immuno-molecular characterization of CTCs|
|CTCs in Clinical Trials||Johnson and Johnson, Oncology Biomarkers||Liquid biopsy – the use of CTCs in clinical trials as prognostic and predictive markers.|
|Novel Technologies||ScreenCell, Inc.||A mini device to isolate rare circulating tumor cells (CTCs).|
|Novel Technologies||Advanced Cell Diagnostics, Inc.||The CTCscope platform for detection and character-ization of CTCs|