New technology expands types of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) detected in blood; accelerates potential for personalized cancer treatment.

HOUSTON (June 1, 2011) — ApoCell, Inc. announced today that it has completed the first prototype to commercialize a revolutionary technology that improves the detection of more types of cancer cells circulating in the blood, including rare cell types that have previously gone undetected. Invented by scientists at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Laboratory of Diagnostic Microsystems and exclusively licensed to ApoCell, a leader in biomarker analysis, the technology also enables the
capture of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in a live and viable state, enabling post-detection testing and culturing.

Combined with the analytical power of modern cell analysis technology, ApoCell’s advanced CTC detection technology is expected to improve the diagnosis and treatment of all cancer patients by providing relatively painless, minimally invasive access to patients’ cancer cells from a blood sample. In addition, ApoCell’s technology can detect very low concentrations of target cellular material, with the goal of enabling clinicians to discover hard-to-detect cancers at a very early stage.

For almost 150 years, scientists have known that CTCs can be found in the blood of cancer patients. Some believe that these circulating cancer cells cause metastasis, the transmission of a cancer from one location to another in the body. CTCs are very rare, less than 10 cells in one milliliter (ml) of blood, making their detection and analysis very difficult by current methods. The ApoCell technology is very sensitive in selecting these circulating cancer cells because it is based on cell morphology — fundamental differences in form and structure between healthy cells and cancer cells. By exposing the patient’s blood sample to a low level electrical field of varying frequencies, ApoCell’s technology enables the separation of cancer cells, based on their inherently different properties, from all other cells. This phenomenon is called dielectrophoresis field flow fractionation or DEP-FFF.

The ApoCell product development group has created the first commercial version of a DEP-FFF instrument for clinical research testing. Called ApoStream™ , beta versions are currently being manufactured and are expected to be introduced in the field later this year.

“ApoStream™ is truly revolutionary in the detection of CTCs for several reasons,” said ApoCell President & CEO Darren Davis, Ph.D. “First, it permits the isolation of cancer cells from all types of cancer including lung, prostate, melanoma, breast, pancreatic, liver, glioblastoma and other rare forms. In addition, because the cancer cells extracted by our method are alive and viable, it allows for many laboratory tests such as protein biomarker analysis, mutation detection and culturing of these rare cells for in vitro drug testing to accelerate the drug development process.”

Current technologies are limited in their ability to detect various types of cancer in sufficient quantities for testing, added Davis, explaining that the enhanced sensitivity of ApoStream™ will allow physicians to detect early stages of cancer by a simple blood test.

The ApoStream™ system will undergo regulatory approval in the near future and has the potential to greatly accelerate personalized cancer treatment, Davis explained.

“Our technology can allow doctors to easily obtain multiple samples of a patient’s circulating cancer cells over time, which will assist the oncologist in selecting the most effective therapy for the patient and in monitoring the effectiveness of treatment,” he said. “Our scientific collaborators, investors and customers are very supportive of this commercialization effort and we expect to accelerate the market roll out of these instruments within the next eighteen months.”

Davis also pointed out that more accurate diagnosis and more effective treatment strategies will help reduce the overall economic burden of cancer — estimated to be at $2 billion annually.