Hitachi Chemical Co., Ltd. and MD Anderson enter into strategic alliance

Collaboration to focus on circulating tumor cells in blood, early detection of metastatic cancer, selection of anti-cancer drugs and enhanced blood sampling 

 Hitachi Chemical Co., Ltd. and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have entered into a four-year strategic alliance funded by Hitachi to help develop and evaluate the company’s Micro Cavity Array (MCA) Circulating Tumor Cell (CTC) system for the isolation of CTC that can be subjected to downstream molecular analyses.

CTCs offer an alternative to more invasive procedures for assessing tumors, and have proven to be valuable prognostic biomarkers in metastatic breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer. Initial trials will include clinical studies in metastatic breast cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.

The clinical studies will be conducted as a collaborative project involving three MD Anderson departments in three divisions. The investigators are James Reuben, Ph.D., professor of Hematopathology, Naoto Ueno, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Breast Medical Oncology, and Steven Lin, M.D., Ph.D. associate professor of Radiation Oncology

 “This alliance offers the potential for evaluating gene signatures in CTCs and identifying biomarkers for therapy response using a non-invasive platform as a viable alternative to existing invasive biopsies,” said Reuben. “It is our hope that this type of collaboration will greatly enhance cancer therapy by enabling precision medicine for our patients. Enhancing effective treatment in lung and breast cancer patients requires proper risk stratification for therapies that will selectively identify patients most likely to benefit from targeted therapies.” 

Hitachi Chemical will provide the platform for the capture of CTC from peripheral blood samples. MD Anderson will provide the expertise to explore, expand and harness the full functionality of the MCA system. MD Anderson will conduct downstream studies for molecular characterization of CTC including cancer-related gene expression profiles.

In addition to fundamental research of CTC, the study includes the potential for early detection of metastatic cancer, and selection and development of anti-cancer drugs for individual patients.

“I believe this alliance offers us a great opportunity to enter the cancer diagnostics market,” said Masato Yoshida, executive officer of Hitachi Chemical Co., Ltd. “The combination of MD Anderson's expertise in cancer treatment and our micro-fabrication technology evolved from semi-conductor business, provides Hitachi Chemical with an advantage in liquid biopsy. With this unique advantage we hope to enter the market by 2021 through demonstrating clinical applications, such as disease monitoring, prognosis and drug efficacy, using CTC-derived biomarkers.”

Hitachi Chemical has developed a filter that rapidly captures CTC from cancer patient blood through application of micro-fabrication technology. The filter, combined with automated blood processing equipment and reagents developed by Hitachi Chemical, results in high-reproducibility with a “capture” rate of more than 90 percent of cancer cells spiked into healthy donor blood.

The impetus for this joint Hitachi Chemical-MD Anderson translational study is the result of a productive and collaborative research program started in 2014 to capitalize on the cancer center’s advanced research of CTCs. MD Anderson researchers confirmed the isolation of CTC using Hitachi Chemical’s proprietary technologies, and identified cancer-related genes and biomarker candidates that have evolved into large clinical trials involving 400 patients.