Is early cancer detection closer than we think?
Sunnyvale/ Bangkok, January 2018 – Dr Sebastian Chakrit Bhakdi, CEO of up-and-coming biotech start-up, X-ZELL Inc., has commended the research team behind Johns Hopkins’ University’s CancerSeek study on advancing the public debate around early cancer detection.
“X-ZELL Inc. is proactively working towards creating a world with zero deaths due to undetected cancer, which is we welcome any progress in the space, and any opportunity to broaden the public discourse around early cancer detection,” the Y Combinator alumni said in response to a new study published in Science last week.
“The small size of each individual cohort and the reporting of median sensitivities don’t allow for an in-depth interpretation of what CancerSeek may be capable of, but it’s still good to see progress in the detection of some cancers,” he explained.
“To complete the picture, we are happy to announce that X-ZELL Inc. has collated extensive, extremely promising data on the more low-performing indications in the study, especially breast cancer, the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women.”
Ground-breaking study close to completion
According to Dr Bhakdi, X-ZELL Inc. is about to finalise a world-first breast cancer study based on the company’s proven ability to isolate and visualize ultra-rare cancer cells – including “game-changing” Circulating Endothelial Cells (CEC), which are derived directly from the tumor’s own blood vessel1. The study is undertaken in collaboration with Bangkok’s Mahidol University.
“While not yet publicised, early results indicate an accuracy of over 90%, so it’s safe to say we could be on the brink of a cancer detection breakthrough,” he said – adding that X-ZELL Inc.’s cell-based approach avoided the most common issues associated with ctDNA-based detection methods, such as ethnicity variation.
A new approach
As reported in late 2017, X-ZELL Inc.’s has developed a new type of rare cell detection technology promising a new, simple, pain-free and highly reliable way of detecting cancer early, potentially avoiding millions of risky, painful and often expensive tissue biopsies, all while assisting physicians in making more reliable diagnoses.
Developed entirely in-house, it is capable of isolating and visualizing rare and abnormal cells such as CEC, as well as abnormal cells clumps and traditional Circulating Tumour Cells (CTC) in a 10ml blood sample. Initial studies confirmed a sensitivity of 82% and specificity of 100% across all stages of prostate cancer2.
X-ZELL Inc.’s breast cancer study with Mahidol University will conclude in February, with results expected in March 2018. A corresponding liquid biopsy, to be called X-ZELL Breast™, could go on sale in Thailand as early as Q2’18. In the future, X-ZELL is hoping to combine its cancer-specific tests to create a multi-cancer test capable of detecting the disease early, when it can be cured.
1Cima I, Kong SL, Sengupta D, et al. Tumor-derived circulating endothelial cell clusters in colorectal cancer. Sci. Transl. Med. 2016;8(345): 345ra89. Also: Lin PP, Gires O, Wang DD, Li L, Wang H. Comprehensive in situ co-detection of aneuploid circulating endothelial and tumor cells. Sci. Rep. 2017;7(1):9789.
2Bhkadi et al. Manuscript under review. 2017.
Established in 2009 with investment from Vichit Suraphongchai – one of the leading figures in Southeast Asian banking – and material support from Thailand’s premier science university, Mahidol University, X-ZELL Inc. started out as a classic university spin-off.
It is the brainchild of Dr Sebastian Chakrit Punyaratabandhu Bhakdi, a German-Thai physician who was working in Bangkok on a fellowship from the German Research Foundation (GFR) when he came across a new way of magnetically separating malaria cells from a blood sample. Upon conclusion of his research, Dr Bhakdi continued to refine the technology and successfully applied it to cancer cell detection, which eventually led to the creation of X-ZELL Inc. The young company’s international breakthrough then came at Y Combinator’s W15 Winter Batch in early 2016, where it showcased a new way of reliably detecting ultra-rare CEC at an early stage – allowing physicians to diagnose malign cancer when it is still treatable. X-ZELL Inc. completed the program with a rare Honourable Mention and seed investment by various Silicon Valley-based angel investors, among them US start-up guru, Paul Buchheit – the creator and lead developer of Gmail. After returning to Bangkok, Dr Bhakdi fast-tracked the company’s corporate evolution with the opening of X-ZELL Inc.’s first overseas office in Sunnyvale, California, and the recruitment of key investor and COO, Johannes Hille, in early 2017. Since then, the company has launched myriad research projects and successfully brought its first commercial cancer test, X-ZELL Prostate™, to market in the Kingdom of Thailand.