Professor Shana Kelley Publishes Paper on Mutation Detection Technlogy in Nature Chemistry and Licenses Technology to Xagenic

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death among Canadians. According to the most recent statistics, two in four Canadians will have cancer in their lifetimes, and one in four people will succumb to it. As a result, rapid detection, diagnosis, and treatment are key in defeating this disease.

Today, doctors employ surgical procedures to extract samples from tumors that are then tested to determine the type of cancer a patient has. This process is both invasive and time consuming. In the future, cheaper, faster, and simpler methods will be used to diagnose cancer in patients. In the laboratory of Professor Shana Kelley of the University of Toronto’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, the future is taking shape now.

Recent research has shown that significant levels of cell-free nucleic acids (cfNAs) are present in the blood of cancer patients, and contain the potential to reveal the mutational spectrum of a tumor without the need for an invasive sampling of the tumor. However, conventional means of using these samples requires differentiation between the nucleic acids that originate from healthy cells and the mutated sequences shed by tumor cells, which can take time and is often complicated by excessive handling.

Researchers in the Kelley lab hope to overcome this problem by developing a chip-based technology using an electrochemical clamp assay that does not require sample purification and that is capable of detecting the presence of mutations within 15 minutes using a collection of oligonucleotides.

Earlier this week, Professor Kelley published a paper about this new technology in Nature Chemistry. The same day, Xagenic Inc., the molecular diagnostics company developing the lab-free Xagenic X1 platform, announced the exclusive acquisition of this technology.

This novel technology was shown to be sensitive, specific, reliable, and accurate in detecting mutated sequences in a collection of samples taken from lung cancer and melanoma patients in Nature Chemistry. It produced results comparable to current practices, but enjoyed a simpler workflow, required smaller sample sizes, and produced results in as little as five minutes.

Moreover, in being able to identify the particular mutation of a tumor, the electrochemical clamp assay technology has the potential to determine what treatments will be most appropriate for patients, leading to improved outcomes. As a result, this technology holds great promise for cancer detection and treatment.