Last week, VolitionRx Limited presented the results of their pilot lung cancer study at the Science for Business BioWin Day 2014 in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. The BioWin Day conference takes place every two years and is a formal event to bring together biotechnological and medical companies with active stakeholders from the Wallonia area. VolitionRx’s study assessed the capacity of the company’s proprietary NuQ® platform to detect lung cancer in the blood and sputum. Marielle Herzog, Ph.D., and company’s lead researcher, will present the study during the “Company Presentations” session between 2 and 3 p.m. CET.
Lung cancers are typically diagnosed because of symptoms that already reflect lung damage and affect their normal function. While there are tools and techniques that allow for screening and diagnosis of other types of cancer — for example, through mammography breast cancer can be detected, and through colonoscopy colorectal cancer can be detected as well — there are no techniques when it comes to detecting early lung cancer. Only an annual screening through a low-dose computed tomography scan (LDCT) under the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) guidelines is available for those at higher risk for the disease. Physicians believe that the majority of lung cancer tumors are curable when detected early, hence a simple, effective, and low cost test to detect cancers in their early phase could save many lives. VolitionRx is committed to developing this kind of diagnostic test.
The VolitionRx study used data from their pilot study in which samples from 46 individuals were collected at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) de Liege in Belgium in the Pneumology department. These samples included non-small cell lung cancer patients, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients, and healthy individuals with no disease.
Results showed that in sputum samples, the VolitionRx’s NuQ® test detected 18 of 21 lung cancer situations (85 percent), and there where no false positives. Additionally, the tests allowed for the discrimination of lung cancer from COPD. The data collected from sputum is smoking and age independent. Blood samples were adjusted for age and smoking risk, and 16 out of 21 patients with cancer were detected (76 percent) with a single false positive registered. Detecting lung cancer in the COPD population was possible as well. Both sputum and blood samples appeared to detect early-stage lung cancer, but more extensive and thorough studies are required.
Jacob Micallef, Ph.D, Chief Scientific Officer, noted in a press release: “Detection of lung cancer is a huge unmet medical need, so these data demonstrating, in a small number of subjects, that our NuQ® assays are able to detect lung cancer with high accuracy are extremely promising. Furthermore, this research showing NuQ® tests work both in blood and airway secretions demonstrates for the first time that the Nucleosomics® technology is useful in a body fluid other than blood, greatly extending its potential applications. We look forward to continuing to develop and evaluate our assays for lung cancer in larger trials that we are currently negotiating.”
The Nucleosomics® platform that NuQ® tests utilize is a company technology that identifies and circulating nucleosome structures and measure them to obtain a profile of the presence of epigenetic cancer signals within the blood and sputum.
Renaud Louis, responsible for the Pneumology Department, CHU Liege, said: “These data appear to be very promising as the NuQ® test not only differentiated lung cancer from healthy subjects but also from COPD, another disease related to tobacco consumption in which oxidative stress is supposed to play a major role. On the other hand I find it very interesting that analysis of airway secretion sampled by a non-invasive method may yield such a sensitivity and specificity in lung cancer detection.”