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UCLA Team Wins $5M NCI Grant to Develop Lung Cancer Dx Tech

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) — The University of California, Los Angeles announced on Monday that a team of its researchers has been awarded a five-year, $5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to further develop a liquid biopsy technology for the early detection of lung cancer.

The technology is based on EFIRM, or electric field-induced release and measurement method, and uses a conducting polymer-based electrochemical chip with an array of electrodes and employs an electrical field to release and detect specific mutations in biofluids such as saliva or blood. Last year, UCLA won a $1.5 million NCI grant to develop an EFIRM-liquid biopsy test for use as a CLIA-certified laboratory-developed test.

With the latest NCI funding, a team led by UCLA researcher and EFIRM inventor David Wong will develop and validate EFIRM assays for 10 DNA mutations commonly observed in lung cancer, incorporating a complementary six-biomarker panel of microRNAs. Meanwhile, Woodland Hills, California-based EZLife Bio, where Wong is CSO, will convert the assays into a single array.

The array will then be used to analyze blood and saliva samples from least 300 individuals with diagnostically challenging lung nodules to determine which of them should undergo a biopsy. The results of these tests will also be combined with quantitative image analyses to develop predictors of lung cancer in patients with indeterminate lung nodules.

"Our ultimate goal is to use our new panel as a guide to identify at least 60 percent of lung cancer-associated biomarkers in those undetermined cases where the patient may or may not have cancer," Denise Aberle, a UCLA researcher and EFIRM co-inventor, said in a statement.