Liquid biopsy company Thrive Earlier Detection launched in May with the aim of bringing an inexpensive test for early tumor detection into routine clinical use. Armed with $110 million Series A backing from Third Rock and other investors, Thrive took out an exclusive license to CancerSEEK, a multianalyte blood test developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University that simultaneously analyzes cancer gene mutations combined with cancer protein biomarkers, all of which are analyzed by machine learning algorithms. CancerSEEK demonstrated greater than 99% specificity in a study published in Science across eight solid tumor types. The platform is under evaluation in a prospective trial in collaboration with Geisinger Health System. Thrive’s CEO Steve Kafka, also a partner at Third Rock Ventures, was formerly at Foundation Medicine (FMI), whose liquid biopsy test analyzes genetic markers and microsatellite instability to help direct therapy and find clinical trial options for patients. FMI is one of several deep-pocketed firms focused on liquid biopsy. Another is Grail, which tapped private equity investors to the tune of a billion dollars in 2017 to develop a DNA-methylation-based test platform for early detection of multiple cancer types. Guardant Health, which like FMI is aiming its liquid biopsy test at patients with advanced cancer, raised $238 million last October in its IPO. Also taking the AI route to early cancer detection is Freenome, which raised $72 million in a Series A round to develop a blood-based test for colorectal cancer. The company analyzes cell-free DNA, RNA and proteins, which yield not only a snapshot of the tumor itself, but also circulating tumor-specific DNA and RNA and protein fragments from immune cells destroyed by the tumor. Freenome analyzes the resulting complex fragmentation patterns, using them as biomarkers for early tumor detection and to reveal tissue origin.
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Annals of Surgical Oncology (2021)