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Co-founder of Singlera Genomics, Kun Zhang, publishes article in Nature Genetics

Method for early cancer detection and identifying tissue-of-origin
March 6, 2017 – La Jolla, CA
A team led by Kun Zhang, co-founder of Singlera Genomics and Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of California San Diego, published the article “Identification of methylation haplotype blocks aids in deconvolution of heterogeneous tissue samples and tumor tissue-of-origin mapping from plasma DNA” in the April 2017 issue of Nature Genetics[i]. The article describes the discovery of a novel method for cancer detection which can rapidly detect tumor cells and determine the source of tumor growth in the body.
Technology innovation
Current non-invasive detection of cancer is achieved by detecting ctDNA (circulating tumor DNA) released from dead/dying cancer cells which can indicate the presence of cancer but is not usually traceable to the tissue of origin. Thus, there has been limited early screening methods for cancer. That is, until Kun Zhang and his team discovered a new detection signal in blood, which not only accurately detects traces of cancer cells, but also identifies the primary tissue source of cancer cells. In the development of cancer, cancer cells compete with normal cells for nutrients and space for growth, and in the process, both normal and cancer cells die so their DNA is released into circulating blood. Based on the DNA released from these cancer cells that originated from normal cells, the affected tissue type can be identified.
In the method proposed by Dr. Zhang, methylated CpG islands in DNA were used as a specific test label. The methylated CpG islands refer to the addition of methyl groups into CG pairs of DNA molecules. The specific methylation tags of CpG islands found in specific tissues of our body can be used for tissue identification. To develop this novel detection method, ten different tissues (including liver, intestine, colon and lung) and blood were obtained from the UCSD Moores Cancer Center, processed and analyzed to build a database of cancer-specific genetic markers. They also compared blood from normal individuals and cancer patients to discover the detection signals for cancer markers and tissue-specific CpG methylation patterns. The whole process works similar to a dual authentication process.
Media coverage
The article has attracted international media attention. Featured news coverage includes:    2017-03-07, Translational Medicine Network

                    2017-03-07, Translational Medicine Network
                    2017-03-07, NBC
                    2017-03-08, Sequencing China
                    2017-03-08, GenomeWeb

Exclusive license granted to Singlera Genomics
The discovery by Kun Zhang and his team at UCSD is very promising. This novel approach for ctDNA liquid biopsy and methylation testing renews the current understanding of early cancer screening and could bring revolutionary changes to the cancer detection industry. An international patent application for the discovery has been submitted and has been exclusively licensed to Singlera Genomics, Inc. Singlera Genomics plans to develop the technology into a commercial product for early cancer screening to identify more potential cancer patients leading to earlier treatment and cures.

[i] Nature Genetics 49, 635–642 (2017) doi:10.1038/ng.3805
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