New platform for an accurate diagnosis and staging of cancer with 'liquid biopsy'
Circulating cell-free ribonucleic acids (ccfRNAs) represent an emerging and important class of molecules able to provide significant clinical relevance as novel screening, prognostic and therapy monitoring biomarkers in cancer. Through analysing specific circulating RNA sequences and, their mutations and concentrations in biological fluids, to different cancers can be accurately correlated for type and stage.
Sadly, despite extensive academic and clinical research identifying and validating in limited clinical trials, ccfRNAs have not yet entered the field of clinical diagnostics. The current analytical methods remain less than satisfactory, and until now ccfRNA detection remains challenging, costly, and requires elaborate sample preparations. Further compounding the challenges, variable losses of target RNA are common, and RNA retro-transcription and amplification are not sufficiently reliable for clinical decision-making. Finally, RT-qPCR, the current gold-standard technology has to be performed and interpreted by highly specialised laboratory personnel.
Prompted by these current analytical limitations, but the real-life need for improved cancer assays for healthcare systems, two innovative European companies, DESTINA Genomica SL (Spain) and OPTOELETTRONICA ITALIA SRL (Italy) have developed the “ODG Platform” for direct measurement of circulating RNA molecules.
The diaRNAgnosis project objective is to complete development of the ODG platform, delivering reliable and robust detection of novel ccfRNA signatures that could be linked to specific cancer types. To ensure timely delivery and success of the diaRNAgnosis project, DESTINA and OPTOI have considered and invited partners who they believe will add real value to the consortium. These are the Spanish company NanoGetic SL (specializing in nanotechnologies); three key academic research groups from the Universities of Trento and Catania (Italy), Granada (Spain); as well as the Prinses Máxima Centrum (Nederland). This new pan-European, multidisciplinary and intersectoral team will develop a reliable and innovative method and platform to identify cancer biomarkers in liquid biopsies. The research collaboration will address the need to perform high sensitivity/high specificity analysis of ccfRNAs that are over-expressed in testicular germ cell tumour (TGCT) and prostate cancer (PCa). This will continue an experimental work started in the past, and enable prospective studies to be undertaken on the ODG platform once performance has been validated with clinical samples. Existing partnerships with healthcare institutions will be strengthened, ensuring multi-site and multi-ethnic sampling. In parallel, the optimization and validation of the OPTOI semiconductor optical detector for detection of ccfRNAs will continue. The DGSL patented reagents for known and putative cancer biomarkers will be designed, synthesised and integrated with the OPTOI sensor and platform. The strong network created between the companies and the academic institutions will thus provide a unique scientific and technological environment to more rapidly turn the research discoveries into innovative products the clinical diagnostic field, leading to improved healthcare for patients.