Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have signed a five-year, $30 million with Johnson and Johnson to bring to market a test that can detect small amounts of cancer cells in blood, reports The Boston Globe's Carolyn Johnson. The researchers have already developed a prototype of the microchip, and the partnership is aimed at refining the test and commercializing it, Johnson adds. The test, which is non-invasive, could be used to track the progress of a person's disease by recording the levels of cancer cells found in the blood of any given patient. It could also allow doctors to test the cells themselves for specific mutations in order to come up with the best treatment options, Johnson says. Veridex, the Johnson and Johnson company involved in the deal, will help the researchers to clear regulatory hurdles and set up clinical trials to validate new tests.
The next step, says In the Pipeline's Derek Lowe, is to develop better therapies, so that when patients find out their current regimen may not be working, there are other options waiting. "If these circulating-cell assays help us sort things out faster in the clinic, maybe we'll be able to make better use of our time and money to that end," Lowe says.