New nanodrop methods for the analysis of circulating tumour DNA in cancer patients

SAGA develops future standard tests for cancer

Common methods of diagnosing cancer are usually indirect, slow and may require minor surgery in order to extract tissue samples from suspected tumours which are subsequently examined under the microscope, says Lao Saal, CEO of SAGA Diagnostics and associate professor at Lund University.

For all types of cancer

“Analysis of tumour DNA, on the other hand, is a direct methodology. It has been known for quite some time that tumour DNA is released into the bloodstream, but only in the last 10 years have there been technologies allowing us to even consider detection. These methods will be possible to use for all types of cancer”, he says.

Many researchers are now trying to develop such analysis methods. Being able to use blood testing for this purpose offers major benefits. In addition to simple testing and quick analysis, it will make it a lot easier to monitor the development of the cancer over time, avoiding both over- and undertreatment of the patient. Furthermore, the technology provides a lot of information that facilitates choosing the right type of medication.

A gigantic market

“This is a hot research topic. Our greatest competition can be found in the United States, which is why we intend to focus on the European market, where such tests are still quite rare. The market is huge – a magnitude of SEK 80 billion a year in Europe”, says Lao Saal.

SAGA Diagnostics’s analysis methods are 100–1 000 times more sensitive than similar methods, making them also suitable for early diagnosis. The methods are also much faster: they take 2–3 days compared to their competitors which take 2–3 weeks, according to Lao Saal.

“Analyses of tumour DNA will become standard practice within 5–10 years for most cancer patients, as obvious as blood glucose testing for diabetics.”

Commercial customers

The focus is now on validating the methods, using blood samples from cancer patients, starting with leukaemia, breast and lung cancer, as well as on marketing the tests. The next step is to raise more venture capital to hire more people and set up a laboratory to be able to receive commercial customers, in addition to the company’s existing research customers.

Updated: 25 June 2017