Novel Assay Measuring Polarity as a Risk Indicator for Breast Cancer
Commercialize a potential high throughput assay that can be used for diagnostic evaluation of breast cancer risk or to screen investigational oncology drugs.
Predictive breast cancer risk assessment is currently performed based on family history, personal characteristics, and BRCA genetic testing. Genetic mutations linked to cancer are found in a small subset of the population and span multiple types of cancer1. With over 250,000 new breast cancer diagnoses per year in the US (125 per 100,000 women), there is a clear need for risk screening and diagnostic tests for breast cancer prevention.
Cells in normal mammary glands are polarized: basal cell membranes communicate with the tissue environment, whereas apical membranes form the lumen. Polarity is essential for the function and equilibrium of breast tissue and suppresses tumor formation3. Cancer cells exhibit changes in their polarity, most noticeably through disaggregation.
This assay uses imaging to measure cell polarity in a 3D culture system. The assay quantifies the radial distribution of fluorescent markers. A custom algorithm generates a summary score for each condition. This diagnostic report can be used to easily evaluate cancer risk and risk reduction.
- Medical industry R&D applications of the assay as a cell-based readout of cancer risk, including:
– Rapid assessment of toxic effects to normal cells for lead compounds
– Platform for screening chemopreventive drugs
- Clinical implementation of the assay as a blood test to track improvement in breast cancer risk
- Expansion of the assay to other types of cancer
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Heather Ramsay, PhD