Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

Is Oncimmune the end of cancer?

The Times is running an ‘end of cancer’ story, about the work of Prof John FR Robertson.

The idea is that cancer cells produce small amounts of proteins, called antigens, that healthy cells do not. The immune system detects these and marshals lots of autoantibodies to attack them. There are different types of antigens and so different types of autoantibodies.

So if you test for the right mix of autoantibodies, you have identified the right mix of antigens, and so detected cancer.

The promising thing is that the test is sensitive enough to work at a very early stage, giving best chance of successful treatment.

How early? How sensitive? The Times claims up to five years before there is a tumour. This can’t be right, because to produce the autoantibodies, you need antigens, so there has to be cancer. But it does have the potential to shift things back before we can see cancer now.

Oncimmune is the company set up to commercialise this technology, and the buzz is that you can get the test for lung cancer now, in the US, or next year, in the UK.

The Oncimmune website makes it clear that the test is an extra validation tool, not an early validation tool, because it recommends other scans should be done as well e.g. a CT-scan. It claims the overall accuracy of the lung cancer test is 88%. It also states the only 100% accurate check is a biopsy, to look at a tissue sample.

The Oncimmune website also covers what has been published on the test, but there is only one reference to a peer-review journal. This is a review of the technical accuracy of the lung-cancer test, in the Annals of Oncology.

Here are the study conclusions. “A calibrated six-panel assay of TAAs has been validated for identifying nearly 40% of primary lung cancers via a peripheral blood test. Levels of reproducibility, precision and linearity would be acceptable for an assay used in a regulated clinical setting.”

This result was based on patients who had already been (only just) diagnosed with lung cancer.

A promising route, but not the end of cancer.


June 1, 2010 - Posted by | Cancer, John FR Robertson, News, Science

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