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New Cancer-Detecting Blood Test Gets J&J Support

January 3, 2011

Embattled pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has announced that they will partner with researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to help develop a revolutionary new blood test that can detect even a single cancer cell in a blood sample.

Dr. Daniel Haber, the chief of MGH’s cancer center and co-inventor of the test, told AP Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione that the test is “like a liquid biopsy,” only without the painful tissue sampling so often required by many cancer tests.

The test, which utilizes a microchip, will be tested at four cancer centers later this year. J&J signed a five year, $30 million deal to market the test once it has been refined and is ready for commercial release, according to Carolyn Y. Johnson of the Boston Globe.

“Initially, doctors want to use the test to try to predict what treatments would be best for each patient’s tumor and find out quickly if they are working,” Marchione wrote on Monday. “Ultimately, the test may offer a way to screen for cancer besides the mammograms, colonoscopies and other less-than-ideal methods used now.”

“There’s a lot of potential here, and that’s why there’s a lot of excitement,” Dr. Mark Kris, a lung cancer chief at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York who was not involved in developing the test but will be among those studying it later on this year, told the AP.

The test “requires only a couple of teaspoons of blood and can be done repeatedly to monitor treatment or determine why a drug has stopped working and what to try next,” Marchione said, and according to Kris, it is that which has gotten “the scientific community’s interest.”

A prototype has been successfully developed, according to Johnson.

“This new technology has the potential to facilitate an easy-to-administer, non-invasive blood test that would allow us to count tumor cells, and to characterize the biology of the cells,” Robert McCormack, the head of technology innovation and strategy J&J subsidiary Veridex, said in a statement, according to the Boston Globe.

Throughout 2010, Johnson & Johnson had been plagued by numerous product recalls, affecting products from their Tylenol, Mylanta, Rolaids, and Benadryl brands. According to Reuters statistics, more than 200 million J&J products were pulled from store shelves last year, and the company saw a 25% loss in revenue during the third quarter.

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