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CTC Technology Advances Prostate Cancer Diagnostics

February 11, 2013 -- Diagnostic technologies for prostate cancer have advanced rapidly over the past decade, ranging from innovative new urine tests and imaging techniques, to blood tests that hunt for Circulating Tumor Cells (CTCs). CTCs are found in a patient’s bloodstream, shed from tumors and may be responsible for metastases. As the work of one research team concludes, collaboration is just beginning for another, building off of the progress made before them. Dr. Hon Leong, researcher and professor at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Lawson Health Research Institute, is working on a simple blood test—version 5.0 in the scheme of prior blood tests of similar nature—that may detect the potential for prostate cancer earlier than a traditional prostate specific-antigen (PSA) blood test. As Dr. Leong shared, “What the test does is just look for actual prostate cancer fragments in the blood, and only for that.” The ability to capture and analyze CTCs from a routine blood draw promises less invasive and better diagnostic tools for prostate and other cancers. CTC liquid biopsies can confirm the presence of cancer and provide a tool for researchers to distinguish between the numerous genotypes of prostate cancer, leading to personalized treatments.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation has invested more than $3 million in the past five years to advance CTC technology at several research centers, including MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital, with funding support from the Charles Evans Foundation and Joel Paschow. Funding was awarded to Dr. Daniel Haber, MD, PhD and his team at Mass Gen and MIT who are working in a partnership with Johnson & Johnson’s Veridex division for a CTC test that will rapidly isolate and assess tumor cells. Dr. Leong is building on CTC technology foundation of Dr. Haber, among others funded by PCF. Dr. Leong was recently named one of Prostate Cancer Canada’s Rising Stars and this specific research advancement was funded through the Movember Foundation of Canada.

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