Liquid Biopsy: Hicks and Kuhn at Forefront of Cancer Research

The USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience Bridge Institute unifies several scientific disciplines under one common goal: addressing complex health-related situations of modern society. Ongoing development in an innovative liquid biopsy procedure promises a drastic improvement on the traditional biopsy technique. At the Bridge Institute, Peter Kuhn and James Hicks lead the field in the advancement of this exciting diagnostic tool. The new liquid biopsy uses blood samples from the surrounding area of a tumor instead of the existing, invasive surgical technique.

What is liquid biopsy and why is it important?

What is liquid biopsy and why is it important?

What is liquid biopsy and why is it important?

What is liquid biopsy and why is it important?

In a recent Huffington Post article, the Breast Cancer Research Fund highlighted progress in the development of liquid biopsy technology. This promising new non-invasive technology enables scientists to better distinguish individual tumor cells in addition to fragments of tumor cells (e.g. DNA, proteins, or other cellular materials found in a blood sample). Liquid biopsy is a new diagnostic technique that uses the blood of a patient to identify circulating tumor cells (CTC) or cell-free circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA).

The procedure is faster than current procedures and can be repeated, with possible real-time monitoring of cancer patients. The blood sample is derived near the tumor and other areas of metastasis. This new liquid biopsy technology is poised to revolutionize the diagnostic process and the measurement of treatment progress.

Liquid Biopsy to find CTCs or ctDNA near tumors.

fig.1: Liquid Biopsy is used to find circulating tumor cells (CTCs) or cell-free circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) near the area of tumors.

Liquid biopsy in Hepatocellular Carcinoma Cancer (Credit: Mount Sinai Health System / J.K. Gregory)

fig. 2: Unlike circulating tumor cells, circulating cell-free DNA and RNA can originate from both tumor and non-tumoral tissue. As they enter the bloodstream, they can then be identified as to what organ they’re originating from. (Credit: Mount Sinai Health System / J.K. Gregory)

Collection of ctDNA as a liquid biopsy has several potential advantages over standard biopsy. (Credit: My Cancer Genome)

fig. 3: Liquid Biopsy vs. Standard Biopsy. ‘Liquid biopsy’ offers several advantages over the standard model as it allows the collection of molecular information from the tumor using cancer byproducts easily accessible in peripheral blood, mainly circulating tumor cells (CTC), ctDNA, and cell-free RNA (cfRNA) (Credit: My Cancer Genome)

Hicks & Kuhn at USC Michelson Bridge

Hicks & Kuhn at USC Michelson Bridge

Hicks & Kuhn at USC Michelson Bridge

Hicks & Kuhn at USC Michelson Bridge

Current research is refining the identification of biomarkers that could have the potential to more effectively evaluate risk and utilize more exact therapies. The key to achieving personalized medicine for metastatic breast cancer lies in understanding how the metastatic tumor differs from primary breast cancer. This is especially important when the metastasis occurs after the initial cancer has been successfully treated. James Hicks and Peter Kuhn are critical members of the Bridge Institute. Together, they lead the way in development and improvement of the liquid biopsy technique.

Dr. James Hicks

Dr. James Hicks

Dr. James Hicks

Dr. James Hicks

James Hicks is a longtime collaborator with Dr. Kuhn. A cancer genomicist from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, Hicks returned to the academic environment after a decade of work in the biotechnology industry. Dr. Hicks worked as a research professor at the CSHL, while also serving as a board member for several biotech companies. As a cancer genomicist, Hicks contributed to the advancement of research, and creation of new methodologies meant to better understand human reaction to cancer therapeutics. Many of these methodologies now utilize next-generation, single cell sequencing to explore the genetic basis of tumor heterogeneity.

Dr. Peter Kuhn

Dr. Peter Kuhn

Dr. Peter Kuhn

Dr. Peter Kuhn

Peter Kuhn is currently the Dean’s Professor of Biological Sciences, coming to USC Michelson Bridge from the Scripps Research Institute where he founded and served as the head of the translational science lab. He is also a well-regarded entrepreneur and prolific writer, with more than 180 publications and 16 filed patents. Dr. Kuhn recently founded Epic Sciences, a company designed to make his procedure for liquid biopsy more commercially viable. Dr. Kuhn’s goal through Epic Sciences is to help liquid biopsy become a more common method of cancer diagnosis.

Peter Kuhn and James Hicks of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience Bridge Institute on October 23rd, 2014. (Credit: Ryan Young)

Peter Kuhn (left) and James Hicks (right) have devised a way to test for cancer cells in the blood through what they have dubbed “a liquid biopsy.” In addition to being less costly and uncomfortable for patients, the method may also be more sensitive and effective at identifying circulating tumor cells than any of their existing competitors. (Credit: Ryan Young)

Liquid Biopsy | Kuhn • Hicks Lab: Convergence Science Initiative — CSI Cancer

The blood based liquid biopsy with single cell proteogenomics capabilities (HD-SCA) devised by the Kuhn • Hicks Lab is part of the larger Convergence Science Initiative: Cancer (CSI: Cancer). In 2016, a first product of the blood liquid biopsy became available for patient care in patients with prostate cancer.

The Kuhn Laboratory

The Kuhn Laboratory

The Kuhn Laboratory

The Kuhn Laboratory

The Kuhn Lab is a part of the Southern California Physics Oncology Center—at the forefront of research on the physical and biological underpinnings of cancer dynamics. The Kuhn lab has several large projects ranging from the use of HD-SCA liquid biopsy and solid tissue biopsies in mCRC patients with hepatic metastases to developing a quantitative account of the transition between limited and disseminated cancer. The center aims to continue existing collaborations and create a network with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories and the Scripps Institute.

Potential research in liquid biopsy

Potential research in liquid biopsy

Potential research in liquid biopsy

Potential research in liquid biopsy

Liquid Biopsy | Giuseppe Curigliano, MD, PhD, Chair of the Division of Early Drug Development, European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy.

Giuseppe Curigliano, MD, PhD, Chair of the Division of Early Drug Development, European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy.

Guieseppe Curigliano of the European Institute of Oncology suggests that “liquid biopsies also present us with a unique opportunity to move forward with our understanding of metastatic disease development and they may help to identify signaling pathways involved in cell invasiveness and metastatic competence”. Doctors Kuhn and Kicks’ work on the liquid biopsy procedure, while promising, requires larger clinical trials to prove viability in the general population. At the Bridge Institute the work of Hicks and Kuhn is for the benefit of all cancer treatments and diagnosis. Within five to ten years’ time we could witness rapid diagnosis of cancer before it has the chance to metastasize.

“Peter’s visionary work on the biology of cancer metastasis will place USC Dornsife at the center of an interdisciplinary research endeavor in the life, engineering and medical sciences with direct implications for human health”, Charles E. McKenna, Vice Dean for Natural Sciences at USC offers.

“Peter’s visionary work on the biology of cancer metastasis will place USC Dornsife at the center of an interdisciplinary research endeavor in the life, engineering and medical sciences with direct implications for human health”, Charles E. McKenna, Vice Dean for Natural Sciences at USC offers.

“Peter’s visionary work on the biology of cancer metastasis will place USC Dornsife at the center of an interdisciplinary research endeavor in the life, engineering and medical sciences with direct implications for human health”, Charles E. McKenna, Vice Dean for Natural Sciences at USC offers.

“Peter’s visionary work on the biology of cancer metastasis will place USC Dornsife at the center of an interdisciplinary research endeavor in the life, engineering and medical sciences with direct implications for human health”, Charles E. McKenna, Vice Dean for Natural Sciences at USC offers.

Charles E. McKenna, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry & Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Southern California. Department of Chemistry. Vice Dean for Natural Sciences & Mathematics.

Charles E. McKenna, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Natural Sciences & Mathematics, University of Southern California.

“The work of Stevens, Kuhn, Hicks, Cherezov, Katritch and their laboratories will open new avenues of discovery in basic science, novel educational approaches, and drug therapies and cures. USC is honored to be their home, their headquarters and their partner in supporting future breakthroughs that enhance our understanding of the human body and that lead to dramatic improvements in health”, Steve A. Kay, Director of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience.

“The work of Stevens, Kuhn, Hicks, Cherezov, Katritch and their laboratories will open new avenues of discovery in basic science, novel educational approaches, and drug therapies and cures. USC is honored to be their home, their headquarters and their partner in supporting future breakthroughs that enhance our understanding of the human body and that lead to dramatic improvements in health”, Steve A. Kay, Director of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience.

“The work of Stevens, Kuhn, Hicks, Cherezov, Katritch and their laboratories will open new avenues of discovery in basic science, novel educational approaches, and drug therapies and cures. USC is honored to be their home, their headquarters and their partner in supporting future breakthroughs that enhance our understanding of the human body and that lead to dramatic improvements in health”, Steve A. Kay, Director of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience.

“The work of Stevens, Kuhn, Hicks, Cherezov, Katritch and their laboratories will open new avenues of discovery in basic science, novel educational approaches, and drug therapies and cures. USC is honored to be their home, their headquarters and their partner in supporting future breakthroughs that enhance our understanding of the human body and that lead to dramatic improvements in health”, Steve A. Kay, Director of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience.

Steve A. Kay, Director of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience. Provost professor of neurology, biomedical engineering and biological sciences. Photo taken on October 22nd, 2014. (Credit: Max S. Gerber)

Steve A. Kay, Ph.D., Director of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience. Photo taken on October 22nd, 2014. (Credit: Max S. Gerber)

Image Credit

References

  1. The Next Promising Frontier of Precision Medicine: Metastatic Breast Cancer [2015-10-14; Marc Hurlbert, PhD. huffingtonpost.com]
  2. Great Minds, One Picture [dornsife.usc.edu]
  3. The Kuhn Laboratory — USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience Bridge Institute [kuhn.usc.edu]
  4. USC recruits renowned leaders in molecular research [2014-10-23; Emily Cavalcanti, Susan L. Wampler. USCNews]
  5. Liquid biopsies: Tumour diagnosis and treatment monitoring in a blood test [2014-09-29; Giuseppe Curigliano. ESMO]
  6. Real-time liquid biopsy: circulating tumor cells versus circulating tumor DNA [2013-07; Catherine Alix-Panabières, Klaus Pantel. ATM]

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Credit: Text curated by Jinnah Griffin

Francis Malarkey is a graduate of Emmanuel College in Boston, MA. He has worked in research for more than 2 years, and has presented his work at the annual gathering of the Society for Neuroscience.

Francis Malarkey is a graduate of Emmanuel College in Boston, MA. He has worked in research for more than 2 years, and has presented his work at the annual gathering of the Society for Neuroscience.

Francis Malarkey is a graduate of Emmanuel College in Boston, MA. He has worked in research for more than 2 years, and has presented his work at the annual gathering of the Society for Neuroscience.

Francis Malarkey is a graduate of Emmanuel College in Boston, MA. He has worked in research for more than 2 years, and has presented his work at the annual gathering of the Society for Neuroscience.