Celsee Diagnostics has developed a novel technology which helps to diagnose cancer through a simple blood test. Dr Kalyan Handique, President & CEO, Celsee Diagnostics divulges more details about the features of the test, its advantages, the company’s strategy to market it in India and more, in an interaction with Lakshmipriya Nair
Tell us about the new blood test for cancer detection. How does it work?
The Celsee CTC test requires a few milliliters of blood collected from a cancer patient. The blood is run on the Celsee platform that will automatically enrich rare circulating tumour cells in a microfluidic device followed by detailed characterisation, imaging and analysis.
Circulating tumour cells (CTCs) are the very cells that leads to the spread of cancer (metastasis) from the primary tumour to other organs of the body. However, these cells are very rare, only a few are present in a background of billions of normal blood cells. Celsee’s proprietary platform enables capture and analysis of these rare cells. CTC analysis obviates the need for painful, surgical biopsies by a simple blood test.
Is it a ‘one-for-all’ kind of test? Which cancers can it detect?
Right now the same test is able to detect and enumerate CTCs from patients of metastatic breast, prostate, colon or lung cancer patients. Once CTCs are trapped in Celsee’s microfluidic device and are enumerated using the ‘one-for-all’ test, further therapy-selection test can be run on the same cell in the Celsee platform. For e.g., you could run a Her2 test on a capture CTC for a breast cancer patient and use the result whether to prescribe Herceptin or not.
Celsee test is currently validated for metastatic breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer. The company is validating other cancer types with its collaborators: the other cancer types include bladder, kidney, pancreatic and melanoma.
Which other countries have deployed this test? What has been the feedback?
The Celsee platform is available in the following countries through country-specific distributors: the US, India, China, Japan, South Korea, UAE, Qatar and Israel. In India, Celsee is using the Star Health Network as its distributor to reach different hospitals in India. Star has placed the first Celsee CTC system in India at the Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute (RGCI), run by onco-pathologist Dr Anurag Mehta. RGCI is happy with the platform as it enables them to access and offer this new cutting-edge liquid biopsy technology to patients in India; for Indian patients, the closest city available for CTC testing is Singapore. The company is working to establish distributors in other countries of the world.
How cost-effective is the test? How has it been received in India?
The Celsee test is very cost-effective compared to the only alternates of either surgical biopsy and/or PET scanning. As the CTC test become more widespread, the cost of the test is expected to come down as it will provide better economies of scale for the manufacturer and distributor.
Which are the hospitals you are in talks with? What is your strategy for the Indian market?
Star Health Network is distributing Celsee products in India. Celsee technology has been demonstrated to all 117 hospitals in Star’s India network. Star expects to provide access to this technology to all cancer treatment hospitals in India. Large pathology laboratory chains in India are also looking into acquiring the Celsee technology. Overall, India has an incidence of one million new cancer patients every year, in the near future, Celsee will become instrumental in the care of every cancer cancer patient in India.
What are the other evolving technologies for cancer detection? The focus areas for Celsee Diagnostics
The other evolving technology for cancer detection is the detection of circulating tumour DNA from blood. When cancer cells from primary tumour or CTCs die in the body of a cancer patient, they release the DNA from the dying cell. These circulating DNA may have certain distinct mutations present in the cancer cell and recent advances have enabled detection of circulating tumour DNA from blood.
CTCs present the whole cell available for analysis and provides a more complete picture of the metastatic process. You can not only analyse DNA but also mRNA, proteins and other cellular contents. These CTCs could also be grown in culture in-vitro and personalised tumour can be maintained in the lab for detailed drug testing.
Celsee’s focus is to allow automated enrichment and analysis of CTCs by variety of techniques: immunochemistry, DNA FISH, mRNA FISH, PCR and/or next generation sequencing.