Episode 14

Inside Europe’s push for early cancer detection

Overshadowed by the world’s ongoing battle with the Wuhan coronavirus, the European Commission (EC) announced last week that it is getting serious about early cancer detection.

On the back of a bold commitment to stopping cancer deaths in the EU by 2040, the Commission used this year’s World Cancer Day as a platform to make Beating Cancer – Europe’s latest initiative in the fight against the disease – available for public consultation.

Even though the announcement did not make the headlines, it marked a crucial milestone in a comprehensive evaluation process that will ultimately define Europe’s stance against one of the most pressing health issues of our time.

Most importantly, it once again put the emphasis on prevention and early detection – a message that has been gathering momentum ever since last year’s much talked-about European Prostate Cancer Awareness Day (EPAD), which drew attention to low awareness for early detection and the ongoing lack of appropriate diagnostic tools.

Rising pressure

And it didn’t come a second too early. According to EU data, more than 40 per cent of the bloc’s 445 million-strong population will be directly affected by the disease in their lives, equating to some 3.5 million new cancer diagnoses every year – and counting.

Responding to a crisis of that magnitude is not just a question of providing access to appropriate treatment and care, explained newly appointed EC President Ursula von der Leyen, but also one of prevention and early detection.

“With up to 40 per cent of [these] cases being attributed to preventable causes, the scope for action and potential to reduce the number of cases in the EU is immense,” she said last Tuesday.

“Everyone has a friend, a colleague or a relative who’s gone through this. Everyone has experienced the same sense of sadness and helplessness …Together we can make a difference – with prevention and research, with a new data strategy and equality in treatment across Europe.”

The result, she added, is a plan that will not only focus on improved access to healthy diets and vaccination coverage, as well as measures to reduce environmental risk factors such as pollution; but centre on “increasing the coverage of the target population for cancer screening.”

Could tCEC be the solution?

The plan’s 12-week consultation phase is taking place just as X-ZELL’s leadership team is touring Europe to share the company’s breakthrough early cancer detection technology with some of the most accomplished researchers on the continent.

The focus – in line with the EC’s Beating Cancer announcement and only recently echoed by AstraZeneca CEO, Pascal Soriot – is on identifying incipient cancer in patients who are yet to show any symptoms.

X-ZELL is doing so by isolating and analysing tumour-associated Circulating Endothelial Cells (tCEC) from a small, 10mL blood sample, using a suite of patented cell detection equipment that can be implemented into any pathology lab around the globe.

Long considered undetectable in clinical routine, tCEC are powerful biomarkers capable of indicating the presence or absence of clinically significant, early-stage cancers.

The only entity in the world capable of routinely isolating these elusive cells from blood, visualising and categorising them on screen, X-ZELL has readily developed a tCEC-based screening test for prostate cancer and is currently validating the technology for a range of additional indications – making it one of the most promising candidates to develop a population-based screening solution in time for the EU’s official 2040 target.

With von der Leyen’s vision of a broad-based early warning system requiring a new level of international and interdisciplinary collaboration, however, X-ZELL is not working in isolation.

Part of the powerful new platform technology that has enabled X-ZELL to find tCEC, for example, is now being made available to researchers to adapt to new fields of scientific discovery.

Creating value by sharing knowledge 

Comprised of two patented devices, the X-ZELL Cryoimmunostaining™ Suite enables researchers to stain samples* with up to nine antibodies at a time as compared to an industry high of four to five, which typically have to be applied in sequence. 

The result is the world’s only multiplexed immunostaining system providing a genuine ‘plug & play’ solution for researchers wanting o focus on science instead of optimising the underlying hardware set-up.

Researchers interested in trialling the system – as well as learning about X-ZELL’s complete early cancer detection workflow – are encouraged to reach out directly to X-ZELL Founder & CEO, Dr Sebastian Bhakdi, via email.

“Early detection is the key to fighting cancer at scale, and we are thrilled to see the EC take such a strong stance on it,” Dr Bhakdi commented on the back of last week’s announcement – pointing out that the last European action plan against cancer dates back some 30 years.

“Even after all that time, the harsh truth is that cancer screening simply doesn’t work. We believe that tCEC detection can help change that, and we pledge that we will do everything in our power to make it accessible to the world as fast as possible.”

*compatible with suspended cells and cryo-sections, FFPE version to launch in Q3’20



Across the EU, a new case of cancer is diagnosed every nine seconds, according to the European Commission, with over 40 per cent of them considered preventable. “By 2035, cancer cases could double and without further action, it could become the leading cause of death in the European Union,” the EC said in a statement on World Cancer Day. In a move to counteract that development, Europe’s Beating Cancer plan aims to “reduce the cancer burden” and “address cancer-related inequalities between Member States with actions to support, coordinate and complement Member States’ efforts”. The plan is now open for public consultation now. More here.

Next-generation cytology

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