U of M, Biocept Collaboration Targeting Testicular Cancer Shows Promise
The Masonic Cancer Research building at the University of Minnesota. ( Photo by Tony Webster/CC)

U of M, Biocept Collaboration Targeting Testicular Cancer Shows Promise

Use of ‘liquid biopsies’ to track disease progression found to be feasible.

A public-private collaboration between the University of Minnesota and San Diego-based diagnostics firm Biocept Inc. has produced some encouraging early results in fighting testicular cancer.
Biocept (Nasdaq: BIOC) and renowned cancer researcher Shilpa Gupta of the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota formed the collaboration in 2016 with a goal of studying the company’s TargetSelector liquid biopsy technology platform, which captures and analyzes tumor-associated molecular markers in both circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and in blood plasma. 
The partnership emerged just as liquid biopsy was coming into focus as a minimally invasive and cost-effective means to assess cancer biomarkers without the risk of surgical biopsy complications. For instance, by using a simple blood draw, liquid biopsies can provide vital information about CTCs applicable to diagnostics, prognosis and treatment decisions of various carcinomas.
Most importantly, repeated CTC measurements can aid in monitoring disease progression or a patient’s response to therapy.
One of the types of cancers being studied by the U of M-Biocept collaboration is testicular cancer, the most common cancer of young males. While relatively rare and usually treatable, those patients whose cancers are advanced and resistant to the typical drug therapy generally have extremely poor prognoses; many of them die as the disease progresses, and so novel treatments are urgently needed to improve their outcomes.
In response to the challenge, the collaborators have carried out a “clinical proof-of-concept” study to demonstrate the feasibility of using the liquid biopsy tool as an effective means to track CTC levels in advanced testicular cancer patients and correlate them with clinical responses.
The results, they announced last week, claim to show that the TargetSelector CTC technology was “very predictive” of clinical response and progression in the single testicular cancer patient studied. Their conclusion was that application of Biocept’s platform “enables the sensitive detection of CTCs in testicular cancer” and provided proof-of-concept.
Gupta and Biocept are also currently collaborating on an ongoing Phase II clinical trial using the TargetSelector as part of an effort to deploy the cancer-fighting antibody brentuximab vedontin against “germ cell tumors” such as testicular cancer.
“The ability of this technology to detect molecular markers of interest holds promise for improving the assessment of patients with this disease and offers a precision medicine-based approach to treating these cancers,” the U researcher said in the statement.