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Cancer is Extremely Heterogenous

Art Courtesy of Michael Murphy

Cancer is a state of uncontrolled cellular growth, but it is not a monoculture. During the endless proliferation, random mutations accumulate in the tumor mass and can form a population of many different subgroups. 

 

Abundant literature highlights the challenge presented by this heterogeneity and the limited clinical utility of existing blood biomarkers.

  • Cancer cells from different patients are substantially different from one another morphologically and genetically.

  • Cancer cells from the same biopsy in a single patient are also SUBSTANTIALLY DIFFERENT from one another morphologically and genetically. 

  • Within a single patient, cancer cell genetics change constantly day after day as they multiply.


These characteristics present a major challenge to finding effective genetics-based markers for cancer.

 

Current widely used blood biomarkers are also restricted in their utility due to low sensitivity in detecting early-stage cancer recurrence.


Colorectal cancer patients are often tested for CEA biomarker levels as part of their follow-up plans. But studies have shown that the sensitivity of CEA to detect recurrence varies widely (from 50-80%) and its ability to detect early-stage recurrence was unreliable.

Similarly, CA-15.3 is used in the follow-up of metastatic breast cancer survivors, but is not recommended for active surveillance of recurrence in asymptomatic survivors of early-stage breast cancer due to low sensitivity.

There is a clear need for additional biomarkers to address these gaps.

  1. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2012/05/not-all-tumor-cells-are-equal-study-reveals-genetic-diversity-in-cells-shed-by-tumors

  2. Caspar G. Sørensen, William K. Karlsson, Hans-Christian Pommergaard, Jakob Burcharth, Jacob Rosenberg, The diagnostic accuracy of carcinoembryonic antigen to detect colorectal cancer recurrence – A systematic review, International Journal of Surgery, Volume 25, 2016, Pages 134-144, ISSN 1743-9191, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijsu.2015.11.065.

  3. Kokko R, Holli K, Hakama M. Ca 15-3 in the follow-up of localised breast cancer: a prospective study. Eur J Cancer. 2002 Jun;38(9):1189-93. doi: 10.1016/s0959-8049(01)00429-4. PMID: 12044504.

Milagen's Approach

Molecules Bio

The Primacy of the Proteome in Cellular Function

Each brain cell, liver cell, heart cell and any other cell in the human body has the same complete set of genes, but the genes are regulated differently. This means that different cell types express a distinct set of proteins, which organizes them into specialized cells with different functions in different organs.

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The Link Between Proteins and Disease

At Milagen, we believe the best place to detect a disease-specific signature is among the abundance of expressed proteins that are found in the blood and govern our entire life from conception to old age.

Above: Immunohistochemistry staining of Colon Cancer tissue. Tissue expressing cancer protein markers are stained red while normal tissue is unstained with blue nuclei.

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Screening for Cancer Biomarkers

Milagen uses its proprietary proteome (protein) technology to discover the key COMMON DENOMINATOR protein cancer markers expressed by cancer tissues and found in the blood. These protein biomarkers are validated in thousands of patients for their sensitivity, specificity and clinical utility in detecting cancer at a very early stage, when treatment has the highest chance of success.

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