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Small Bits of Cancer


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.

The Scan

US Supports Patent Waivers

NPR reports that the Biden Administration has announced its support for waiving intellectual property protections for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.

Vaccines Versus Variants

Two studies find the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine to be effective against viral variants, and Moderna reports on booster shots to combat variants.

CRISPR for What Ails You

The Wall Street Journal writes that CRISPR-based therapies could someday be used to treat common conditions like heart attacks.

Nature Papers Review Integration of Single-Cell Assay Data, Present Approach to Detect Rare Variants

In Nature this week: review of ways to integrate data from single-cell assays, and more.