City University of Hong Kong’s New Blood Test Technology Can Accurately Screen Cancer Cells in Less than Five Minutes

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Groundbreaking technology that can accurately perform early screening for cancer cells and effectively monitor disease status has been successfully developed by a biomedical research team at City University of Hong Kong (CityU).

With an accuracy rate of over 90%, the new technology can detect cancer cells with as little as 4 ml of blood in no more than five minutes, currently the fastest screening technology in the world, allowing a patient to know his or her risk of cancer as soon as possible. The new technology can also monitor the effectiveness of drugs used for medical treatment.

Conventional means for cancer diagnosis such as medical imaging and tissue biopsy aren’t accurate enough. Testing blood for protein markers produced by a tumor has a sensitivity and specificity of only around 50 to 60%.

Developed from the “cell manipulation and test platform based on microfluidic chip technology,” the process can accurately identify tumor cells circulating in the blood. Without requiring patients to undergo surgery, the technology can screen for cancer three to six months earlier than medical imaging is able to, and can detect tumors as small as 0.1mm in the early stages of cancer.

Led by Professor Michael Yang Mengsu, Acting Dean of the Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences and Yeung Kin Man Chair Professor at Biomedical Sciences at CityU, key members of the research team include Dr Henry Zou Heng, Dr Edwin Yu Wai-kin and Dr Xu Tao, all Senior Research Associates in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at CityU.

“Our technology can also be used to monitor the status of cancer patients so as to know how they are responding to their current medical treatment and whether they should receive new treatment,” Dr Zou said.

When determining whether immunotherapy is an appropriate treatment for cancer patients, the standard way is to conduct tissue biopsy. However, CityU’s tumor target technology can determine whether or not a patient needs surgery simply by analyzing proteins on the surface of cancer cells. The test result is more accurate than tissue examination.

The new technology can also be used to test whether cancer patients have drug-resistance problems, which can help doctors decide if new medication or treatment is required.

CityU has licensed this newly developed technology to Cellomics International Limited, a start-up company set up by the research team. The products invented by the company have received accreditation from China’s National Medical Products Administration.