Biocept Targets Spreading Tumors With Advance in Diagnostics

8/20/10Follow @bvbigelow

We noted earlier this week that San Diego-based Biocept, which is developing advanced cancer diagnostics technology, had recently raised $2.3 million from its investors. That news reminded me of a fascinating meeting I had in June with Biocept CEO Stephen Coutts, a 30-year veteran of San Diego’s biotech community.

In one of the cooler demonstrations I’ve seen, Coutts showed me how Biocept’s proprietary “cell enrichment and extraction” technology acts like a highly efficient filter that snags tumor cells circulating in the blood. The system uses a micro-electromechanical system and other precision instruments to funnel a blood sample through the filter, which we viewed through a high-powered microscope. Normal blood cells flow easily through, but cancer cells are captured.

Biocept is aiming its diagnostics technology at four of the most common types of solid tumors: prostate, breast, colorectal, and non-small cell lung cancers. Coutts explained that the cells on the surface of these and other tumors can break loose and enter the bloodstream, where they become the dreaded circulating tumor cells that enable such cancers to metastasize.

Biocept says its system is sensitive enough to consistently capture and quantify extremely rare tumor cells that might comprise only one in 5-to-10 billion cells in a blood sample. Being able to count the cancer cells is important, Coutts said, because “the more [circulating tumor cells] you find, the worse the prognosis” for patients with these tumors.

Biocept’s technology represents a significant advance because … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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