Colorectal cancer is a lethal disease responsible for more than 200,000 deaths per year in Europe, with similar absolute numbers for men and women. It is the second most common cancer in Europe in terms of incidence rates (after breast cancer) and also the second cancer in terms of mortality, with only lung cancer contributing more cancer deaths. Early detection through population screening has been shown to reduce the mortality from colorectal cancer. Unfortunately, colorectal cancer screening campaigns suffer from low compliant rates linked to the invasive currently available diagnostic methods. Standard clinical protocols for people at high risk of developing colorectal cancer detection are based on colonoscopy and tissue biopsy, which involve sampling cells with the use of small-gauge needle. Tissue biopsy is also applied for the surveillance and follow-up of patients with colorectal cancer, and in these cases the procedure is even more invasive, and sometimes technically challenging or even impossible.
Cancer biomarkers circulating in body fluids are widely used, but they lack sensitivity and specificity, reducing their applicative value. This problem has been tackled by attempting to develop cost-effective, highly reliable and minimally-invasive biomarkers and integrated diagnostic approaches. However, barriers remain that prevent a widespread use of these approaches.
ULTRAPLACAD has developed a new plasmonic system for minimal-invasive colorectal cancer diagnosis based on the ultrasensitive analysis of nucleic acids and protein biomarkers circulating in human blood. These characteristics put ULTRAPLACAD at the forefront of molecular diagnosis technologies as a unique and up to now not existing platform for the comprehensive detection of nucleic acids and protein biomarkers in blood plasma. Moreover, it offers the advantage of reduced sample contaminations, analysis time, assay costs due to reduced complexity of assays and respective readers.
Very few FDA approved non-invasive methods for colorectal cancer screening have been available only recently. Based on cost analysis and benchmarking of the existing commercial systems (digital PCR) ULTRAPLACAD system seems to be very competitive, with estimated manufacturing cost for aTAA (200 analytes), ctDNA (50 spots) and miRNA (8 spots) reasonable, if compared to dPCR cost (10 EUR per mutation).
ULTRAPLACAD platform will improve diagnosis and also enable a more specific selection of patients for therapy, as well as allows therapy monitoring from liquid biopsies, thus reducing invasive procedures and improving patient management. The development of ULTRAPLACAD platform enables a broad range of clinical applications and is, therefore, a step to saving thousands of lives and, at the same time, avoiding additional strain on the healthcare systems in developed countries.