A UK start-up has developed a pioneering cancer test that has already gained US regulatory clearance. Angle, who are based in Surrey and listed in London, have attracted the interest of global pharmaceutical companies after their liquid biopsy test was given clearance by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the US medical regulatory body.

The Financial Times (FT) reports that the diagnostic test captures live cancer cells in the blood, and has been approved for use in cases of metastatic breast cancer. The pioneering technology allows doctors to track the gene mutations and expression in an individual’s cancer, therefore allowing for more effective targeted treatment.

Angle is also working on a trial for an ovarian cancer test, and also has a prostate cancer test in the pipeline. The company has attracted a lot of interest from drugmakers, and is already working with US-based Abbott and Philadelphia based MidLantic Urology.

Andrew Newland, chief executive of Angle, told the FT: “Our vision is that we’re going to transform the way that cancer is diagnosed and treated for every cancer type worldwide. So we either have to be a very, very large company, or as we’re currently planning, we have to have many deals with very large companies to achieve that.” 

The major advantage of the new diagnostic test is that they allow clinicians to track a patient’s response to a drug, so that they eliminate the process of trial and error, and pinpoint an effective treatment at an earlier stage. The current methods rely on using tissue biopsies, which quickly become out of date and are not always repeated.

Angle are just one start-up who are driving interest in the liquid biopsy market. There are several other start ups who are developing methods to detect cancer even before a patient begins to show symptoms.

Thrive, a US company, have developed the CancerSeek liquid biopsy test, with is designed to detect multiple cancers at an early stage in the disease, when effective treatment or even a cure is still possible.

Chief executive Steven Kafka told the FT: “The gains are measured in days or weeks or maybe months. We have an opportunity to shift the focus to earlier cancer detection, where we know treatment can lead to incremental years of high-quality life and in many cases actually curing the cancer completely.” 

Angle’s products are designed to track the progress of early stage cancers, to aid a personalised treatment programme, rather than to achieve an early detection of the disease. Despite the worldwide interest, the company is struggling to roll out its tests in the UK health service.

Newland said: “Unfortunately, we failed miserably. We tried. But we’re finding all the traction is coming on the United States side, which is very disappointing. We can even provide this test at relatively low cost . . . but it’s just impossible to find anybody who’s able to make a decision.”

Despite this, demand is growing across the US, and the tests have been given the EU CE mark of approval.

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