Currently, cancer treatment is an extremely complex process. Each day under treatment counts, especially for advanced cases. Consequently, tests that can quickly analyze if a treatment is working can really impact its success and the patient’s outcomes. However, current testing such as imaging and biopsies are invasive, traumatic, and time consuming. Therefore recently, a team from the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Institute for Health Innovation & Technology (iHealthtech) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed a simple blood test that can quickly evaluate if a particular treatment is working or not, giving doctors the ability to change the patient’s treatment plan. Patients can take the test within 24 hours of the first dose, and only takes one hour to complete. They published their findings in Nature.
Cancer cell secretions
The blood test is called extracellular vesicle monitoring of small-molecule chemical occupancy and protein expression (ExoSCOPE). It depends on small lipid bound globules called extracellular vesicles (EVs) that cancer cells secrete into the blood. If the cancer-treating drug enters these cells, the EVs it secretes will also carry some of the drugs in them. The researchers can check this using a sensor to see if the drug has reached its target. They can further verify efficacy by monitoring the change in drug level in the secreted EVs.
“The ExoSCOPE sensor contains millions of gold nanorings to capture the EVs and amplify their drug labeling signals to induce strong light signals. These light signals are then processed to give a readout to indicate drug effectiveness,” said Mr. Zhang Yan, a doctoral student from NUS Department of Biomedical Engineering and iHealthtech.
The authors confirmed their test’s efficacy in a clinical trial with 106 participants who were receiving lung cancer treatment. The test was 95% accurate in detecting if the treatment was working, compared to the current gold standard imaging technique.
The team now plans to use this technique to check the treatment efficacy for other long-term illnesses like cardiovascular and neurological disease. They have also filed a patent and hope that the ExoSCOPE test can be available to hospitals within 3 years.
“I hope our technology can contribute towards personalized treatment, to guide the selection, dosage, and duration of different treatments, and improve treatment outcomes,” said Assistant Professor Shao Huilin, the corresponding author of the study.
Source: NUS News