Development of a multi-entity chip with mobile measurement system for minimally invasive early cancer detection

The University of Lübeck, together with the project partners CAMPTON Diagnostics and soventec as well as the University Hospital of Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH), receives funding from the state program Economy for a project on the early detection of pancreatic, colorectal and lung cancer

Itzehoe, 31.05.2021 – The University of Lübeck, the biotechnology company CAMPTON Diagnostics GmbH, the software company soventec GmbH and the UKSH are starting a joint research project to develop a novel, mobile measurement system for the early detection of pancreatic, colon and lung cancer in particular. For the first time, this system will be able to evaluate multiple biomarkers (multiplex approach) in combination with an AI-based evaluation strategy in order to detect cancer clearly, differentiated and early.

The project combines the expertise of the University of Lübeck in the areas of biobanking and sensitive biomarker detection, CAMPTON Diagnostics in the area of biochip technology, and soventec in the development of software and AI-based evaluation modules. It has been running since February 1, 2021 and will end on June 31, 2023.

“Pancreatic, colorectal and lung cancers are among the most common cancers worldwide and in the majority have tumor involvement in lymph nodes and/or distant organs at the time of diagnosis,” said Timo Gemoll, Professor of Oncologic Proteomics at the University of Lübeck and Acting Head of the Translational Surgical Oncology & Biomaterial Banks (STCOB) Section of the Department of Surgery at the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein, Lübeck Campus.

“A major challenge for today’s healthcare systems is to detect cancer in patients at an early stage,” explains Prof. Gemoll. At this stage, there is no metastasis and the chances of cure are greater than at a later date. In addition, it would be desirable to predict a therapy response for affected patients, for example, in order to be able to make statements about the success of chemotherapy or radiation.

 Automated early cancer detection with the use of AI.

“Against this background and a predicted doubling of cancer cases by 2040, the present project refers to the development of a novel biochip array, which for the first time worldwide combines an automated detection method in an integrated cartridge system, will allow mobile use based on our Reader 100, and is flexibly adaptable to future requirements by using software-based and, thanks to AI, adaptive evaluation methods”, Lars Blohm, CEO and CTO of CAMPTON Diagnostics, describes the joint project.

Kai Diercks, Managing Director of soventec, adds: “What is novel is that we will evaluate the elimination of systematic measurement errors in the Reader 100 system via an AI-based evaluation approach of the raw data. “Anomalies in the measurement process can be identified for existing and future assays. “The AI-based evaluation of the measurement results can then be used together with clinical parameters to individualize diagnostics and thus optimize the Reader 100,” Diercks added.

Mobile measuring device for later on-site use

The detection of the markers will be developed on the CAMPTON “Reader 100” approved for research & development. In the second project phase, a project-specific new reader with integrated reagents in the cartridge will be developed. The goal is to optimize the developed marker panels for early cancer detection into a rapid test and later to combine them into a new type of reader as a fast, easy-to-use on-site test that could later even be used by patients at home as a therapy control.

Innovation: Combination of biomarkers on the biochip

Another innovation of the system is the particular combination of proteins to be studied on the biochip. “During the first phase of the project, the design of the biochip will focus on pancreatic, colorectal and lung cancer. For this purpose, used (i) markers in the clinic for pancreatic, colorectal and lung cancer will be complemented with (ii) promising markers from current clinical studies and (iii) markers from comparative molecular biology studies,” explains Prof. Dr. Gemoll.

In the course of the project, new, sensitive and specific protein biomarkers for the cancer entities to be investigated will also be detected. For this purpose, the so-called Olink® technology will be used and established as a new technology platform at the University of Lübeck.

“When testing and validating the new developments of the Reader, additionally stored clinical material is compared with ‘fresh’ serum, which has not undergone any transport or storage. This approach not only allows the workflow in the hospital to be accurately mapped, but also allows the stability of the selected markers to be tested by re-measuring the ‘fresh’ serum after storage, for example,” describes Prof. Dr. Gemoll. This exclusive sample acquisition is guaranteed by the close cooperation of the Section for Translational Surgical Oncology & Biomaterial Banks and the Interdisciplinary Center for Biobanking-Lübeck (Acting Head: Dr. Martina Oberländer).

The amount of funding from the state program Economy 2014-2020 for CAMPTON Diagnostics is 239,529.00 euros.