Electrochemical Profiling of Extracellular Vesicles (EP4EVs)

Lead Research Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science


Beating Cancer is all about early detection, which enables faster access to better treatment to improve long-term survival rates. Around 55,000 women and 370 men are diagnosed with breast cancer (BC) every year in the UK. Although most cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage, a "two-week wait" is the most common route to diagnosing cancer in UK that is followed by a "31-day wait" for a decision to treat. The UK spends at least £7,247 per case and a total of £243 million per year for BC diagnosis/treatment. Thus, developing highly sensitive and cost-effective diagnostic and monitoring systems using small sample volumes for rapid cancer diagnostics and prognostics (reducing diagnosis/treatment times) is a key UK-wide strategic priority in personalised medicine. The standard of care for locally advanced or aggressive BC is neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NACT) followed by breast surgery. Currently, the pre-surgical assessment of the efficacy of NACT is based on medical imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computerized tomography scan (CT), however, these imaging techniques suffer from a reduced sensitivity in monitoring treatment response and cannot be used for the prediction of disease progression.

This project aims at developing electrochemical profiling as a liquid-biopsy test (simple blood test) to access the efficacy of NACT through detecting the BC specific surface proteins on the tumour derived extracellular vesicles (tdEVs) released from the BC cells. This involves the development of electrochemical assays through integration of surface chemistries with specific antibodies to detect clinically relevant tdEVs surface proteins at clinically relevant concentrations. Here, we propose to demonstrate a feasibility study that involves the testing of these electrochemical assays for the real-time electrochemical profiling of tdEVs surface proteins in blood samples obtained from the BC patients collected at different stages of NACT. This multidisciplinary project will be delivered through strategic partnership with our international partner at University of Genova (expertise - internal medicine), UK co-Investigators at University of Edinburgh (cancer oncologist) and Swansea University (extracellular vesicles biologist) and Industrial partners in UK (sensor manufacturer). The success of this project will assist the expansion of rapid and high throughput liquid-biopsy based cancer diagnostics and prognostics and thus, would reduce the diagnosis/treatment time and cost, which will directly impact the healthcare sector in UK and worldwide.


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