“Our test will encourage people to do the preliminary test for colon cancer,” David Solomon, CEO of Bio Mark.Colon cancer is the third most common cancer found in American men and women. While screening and treatment options for colon cancer have improved in recent years, the American Cancer Society estimates that the disease will take the lives of about 50,000 Americans in 2008.
A new Israeli company Bio Mark has developed a colon cancer-screening test — given as part of a routine blood test — that can dramatically up the odds for survival. The company has just completed its validation procedure and reports that it can correctly identify adenomas, the polyps that grow in the colon and which may convert to colon cancer, with a success rate of more than 80 percent.
While the new test, expected to get FDA approval within a year, is not perfect and will not replace a painful colonoscopy, the company’s CEO David Solomon tells ISRAEL21c that it can catch early stages of colon cancer in people who have not done preliminary tests. The company also has a drug against colon cancer under development.
The first blood test to detect polyps
Only about 40% of Americans, he says, go for the screening test, whereas about one quarter of all people over the age of 50 harbor polyps in the intestine. Polyps are what lead to cancer in about 95% of cases of all colon cancers. Doctors prefer to remove polyps before cancer develops.
Tests for detecting polyps are both painful and costly, about $1,500 per test, and usually are taken most often — about every five to 10 years — by those who are at risk for colon cancer. Bio Mark’s test in comparison will cost between $50 to $100 and requires an ordinary blood sample.
“Our test will encourage people to do the preliminary test for colon cancer,” says Solomon. “We can identity ademonas which can convert to cancer. Ours is a screening tool — we don’t say that we will replace the colonoscopy, but can easily check those over 50, about 150 million people, to help save their lives.”
Based on biomarkers
Bio Mark’s test is a non-invasive procedure administered on blood collected from a routine checkup at the doctor’s office. The test, named CD24, is based on the oncogene of the same name for colorectal cancer. It uses the fact that polyps once growing in the colon emit biomarkers, which in very low levels can be detected by Bio Mark.
This innovation is based on the research of Nadir Arber, a professor of medicine and gastroenterology at Tel Aviv University, who heads the Cancer Prevention Unit at the Tel Aviv Medical Center.
Says Solomon: “We are talking about the fact that 25% of the population aged 50 and over has polyps which probably should be removed. Nobody can tell which polyp at the end of the day will become cancer,” he notes, and that’s why doctors remove them to err on the side of safety.
Worth $10 billion dollars a year, the colon cancer diagnostic market is expected to grow as medical authorities push for more routine testing. Some suggest that a person be tested annually. Bio Mark, which is based in Ramat Gan, plans on entering the market through strategic partnerships and licensing models, along with the aim that insurance companies in Western countries will subsidize the extra cost.
Bio Mark is one of six companies formed by the holding company Micromedic Technologies. Micromedic, founded in 2005, is publicly traded on the Tel Aviv stock exchange; and also owns the biomarker company BioGan, now developing a kit for early detection of breast and ovarian cancer.