A system for the early detection of tumour cells has been developed

Altum Sequencing, a start-up in the biotechnology sector that is part of the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid’s (UC3M) Incubation and Acceleration of Companies and Industrial PhD programmes, has patented a system that allows for the early identification of tumour-specific genetic markers and the quantification of cancer cells following responses to drug treatments.

This technology identifies patients with cancer diseases who are at a high risk of relapsing by quantifying residual cancer cells after receiving treatment. The method, developed by Altum, can be applied to any type of tumour and can detect a tumour cell from among 100,000 healthy cells using a blood sample. "It is an ultra-sensitive technique that quantifies cancer-specific nucleic acids in blood samples, making it possible for us to know which level the disease is at, at all times, by carrying out a non-invasive test," says Santiago Barrio, CEO of Altum Sequencing.

Quantification of the cancer cells that remain after treatment allows relapses to be anticipated and subsequent treatment to be adjusted to the individual, reducing mortality levels. "On the other hand, this system allows us to develop more and better drugs and helps us avoid using unnecessary treatments, which also reduces the cost of healthcare," says Barrio.

Cancer is currently the third leading cause of death around the world. In 2020, 2.7 million people were diagnosed in the European Union and 1.3 million lost their lives because of this disease. In addition to this, the total cost of treatment within Europe amounted to 199 trillion Euros, according to data provided by the company.

Altum Sequencing is working with the UC3M to train predoctoral staff by adding to its team of PhD students from the University over a period of three years. The UC3M’s Industrial PhD programme is facilitating multidisciplinary collaboration for the development of big data techniques, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, with the aim of accelerating the results of biomedical research. In addition to providing training, Industrial PhD programmes promote the transfer of knowledge and synergies between the University and the industrial sector.

This spin-off of the Hospital 12 de Octubre in Madrid is also collaborating in different clinical trials and has marketed this technology with a Chinese company to be used in the Asian market.

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