Biocept, Inc. Making Advances in Circulating Tumor Cell Research for Cancers

Biocept Inc. is a privately held laboratory testing company based in San Diego, Calif. focused on detection and analysis of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in cancer patients.

Their most recent project was documented in a paper published in the December 2011 issue of Cancer Discovery. The paper showcased research performed by collaborators from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center on the cytokeratin, which is a protein biomarker for epithelial cells (the tissue that lines body cavities and flat surfaces in the body). The research indicates not all CTCs have epithelial properties.

To date, most CTC capture and detection technologies have not been able to recognize the cytokeratin negative (CK‐) CTCs. In the paper, researchers explore how Biocept’s Cell Enrichment and Extraction (CEETM) platform allows for the capture of these CK- cells as well as CK+ CTC phenotypes in patient samples and animal models.

The researchers determined that CK- CTCs may be as prevalent as CK+ CTCs at different stages of a patient’s cancer in many types of cancer. The benefit of capturing both types of these cells is to gain useful information about the cancer such as whether the CK- CTCs have undergone the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), which is believed to be a key process for metastasis (cancer’s transfer from one organ to another).

“New technologies, and new ways of looking at a problem, often bring advances in understanding cancer biology, which may translate into better patient care. We are at the beginning of characterizing CTCs, and different CTC populations, as well as their roles in different cancers, or stages of cancer. We believe that the Biocept CEETM platform holds great potential in advancing towards this goal,” said Anil Sood, MD and lead author of the paper in a recent press release.

OncoCEE-BRTM™ – Advancing Breast Cancer Research

Currently, Biocept has one test commercially available – the OncoCEE-BRTM test for breast cancer. The test allows for CTC enumeration (higher CTC numbers may be an indicator of poor treatment outcomes) and the determination of HER2 status of the CTCs via a technique called fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). The FISH HR2 test predicts whether the patient is eligible for treatments such as Herceptin®. This drug is used to treat patients with HER2+ breast cancers, which is considered an aggressive cancer. A higher number of HER2 protein markers indicate that the cancer will spread quickly.

According to, more than 230,000 cases of invasive breast cancer would be diagnosed in American women by the end of 2011. Additionally, more than 57,000 cases of non-invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in 2011.

This year, Biocept’s OncoCEE-BRTM test will include determination of the estrogen and progesterone receptors (ER and PR, respectively) status via immunocytochemical staining, which is yet another indicator of the status of the patient’s disease.

The test is currently available through Biocept’s CLIA lab. In the near future, the test will be marketed and sold commercially via collaboration with Clarient, Inc. (a GE Healthcare company). Biocept’s breast cancer CTC test is the first commercially available test to include the analysis of a specific treatment-associated biomarker.

Biocept, Inc. presented its products and technologies OneMedForum SF 2012, on January 9 – 12.

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