Ccheck, a new test for early cancer detection under development by Anixa Biosciences, was able to identify patients with aggressive prostate cancer, and helped decide who should be recommended for a prostate biopsy, potentially reducing the number of unnecessary biopsies, the company announced.
The test may be also used for other cancer types in the future.
The early findings are from an ongoing study validating Ccheck for prostate cancer screening and were presented at the 2019 American Association of Cancer Research Annual Meeting, held March 29–April 3 in Atlanta.
The presentation, “Using machine learning to predict the risk of either having an aggressive form of prostate cancer (PCa) or lower-grade PCa/benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) based upon the flow cytometry immunophenotyping of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) and lymphocyte cell populations,” is available here.
Anixa’s ongoing study is evaluating if Ccheck can accurately predict if a man is at higher risk of having an aggressive form of prostate cancer (Gleason grade 4+3 or higher) — and should be recommended for biopsy — or if he is at lower or no risk for the cancer.
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is the standard for detecting prostate cancer but “results in a large frequency of false positives leading to numerous men each year undergoing unnecessary prostate biopsy procedures,” the researchers said in their presentation.
Ccheck detects a type of cell that often appears early in cancer, called myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs), by combining flow cytometry — a technique that detects specific cell populations within a biological sample — and artificial intelligence (machine learning).
MDSCs are often induced by tumors of different types, after cancer cells have harassed the development and function of immature immune cells termed myeloid. Those cells are called into the tumor microenvironment and diverted to suppress the anti-tumor immune system attacks trying to fight the cancer.
A growing body of evidence indicates that MDSCs support the growth and spread of several cancer types, and enable tumors to resist immunotherapies. That is why they are emerging as novel anti-cancer therapeutic targets.
In this study, researchers used Ccheck to screen blood samples of 114 patients with biopsy-confirmed prostate cancer, 89 participants with biopsy-confirmed benign prostate enlargement, and 116 healthy subjects.
The flow cytometry part of the test detected the profile of MDSCs, and other immune cells, present in the patient’s blood (immunophenotyping), while machine learning analyzed this pattern and predicted cancer risk.
The test had 90% sensitivity for predicting whether subjects should undergo a prostate biopsy. The researchers argued that this data meant that of the 203 subjects recommended for biopsy, about 105 of them could have been spared the procedure if Ccheck had been used.
“In a clinical setting, we believe that this technology, in use with other known clinical risk factors, would allow for clinicians to have a more informed decision when recommending their patients for a prostate biopsy procedure,” the researchers wrote.
“We are pleased with the response received on our presentation from the scientific community, and look forward to the impact our technology may have on cancer treatment,” Amit Kumar, PhD, CEO of Anixa, said in a press release.