Une Technologie d’ici Pour Mieux Diagnostiquer le Cancer du Poumon - Local Technology for Improved Lung Cancer Diagnosis
This article recently appeared in the French-Canadian news publication “Le Soleil”. The origjnal article can be found here:
The following is an AI translation of the text of the article to English:
“Local Technology for Improved Lung Cancer Diagnosis
By Marie-Soleil Brault, Le Soleil
August 30, 2023
‘A simple blood test’: a laboratory in Quebec, Biomark, is preparing to commercialize a new lung cancer screening test for the Canadian and American healthcare systems.
The diagnostic solutions company Biomark has been developing a new test for early lung cancer diagnosis for several years. With patents in hand, the company is now ready to make this innovation accessible to everyone.
Lung cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. The probability of surviving at least five years after diagnosis is approximately 19% in Canada. However, 50% of all cases are diagnosed late, at stage IV, according to Statistics Canada.
Approximately 400,000 people are at risk of developing this cancer annually, explains Jean-François Haince, CEO and scientist at the Biomark laboratory in Quebec.
‘And there are about 20,000 people who will be diagnosed in Canada, including 5,000 in Quebec.’
— Jean-François Haince, biochemist and chief scientist at Biomark
The conventional method for detecting lung cancer involves imaging and biopsy, which is the surgical removal of a small piece of tissue.
However, this procedure does not always allow for the early detection of cancer cells.
‘By the time we find it and see it through imaging, the cancer has already reached a certain size and is advanced. And for lung cancer, this greatly limits surgical options, if not making them impossible. So, we end up with chemotherapy or another type of targeted therapy.’
Prevention is Better than Cure
Biomark is a Canadian company based in British Columbia, founded by Rashid Ahmed. It operates two laboratories: one in Alberta for instrument development and one in Quebec dedicated to research, development, and commercialization.
Since 2019, the laboratory in the National Capital Region has been refining a non-invasive screening process, in partnership with the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute (IUCPQ) and Phytronix, a company specializing in mass spectrometry. This technique allows for the measurement of molecules to identify and quantify them in various circumstances.
Patented this year in Canada and the United States, this test is heading toward its initial phase of commercialization in Canada and the United States, partly with the help of a $231,000 grant from the City of Quebec awarded last June.
This deployment in healthcare systems will enable family doctors and specialists to prescribe the test for anyone at risk, even during their annual blood tests. This could potentially detect lung cancer in asymptomatic individuals.
‘We want to transform the accessibility of this medicine, both for healthcare systems and individuals,’ says Jean-François Haince.
An agreement has already been signed with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
A ‘Simple’ Blood Test
In practice, Biomark’s approach involves liquid biopsy – blood – to determine the presence of cancer cells, known as metabolites.
‘We base it on how they function and how they use energy to reproduce and multiply rapidly. They will change their metabolism slightly, and they will leave certain characteristic molecules of their presence in the blood,’ explains Dr. Haince, a biochemist by training.
This method allows for the exploitation of the signatures left behind by these cells in circulation. Using mass spectrometry, it is then possible to detect the presence or absence of these cancer cells.
‘What we want is to be able to make the diagnosis at stages where therapeutic options are still available to increase survival rates.’
The survival rate for advanced-stage lung cancer varies between 20 and 25%. For stages 1 and 2, the rates can exceed 80%, he adds.
A First for Quebec
Canada and the United States have different approaches to cancer screening.
In the United States, there are programs for early screening of breast, colon, lung, and cervical cancer.
While in Canada, ‘there is nothing organized from coast to coast.’
Management is done by province. In Quebec, only breast and cervical cancer have screening programs.
‘We had nothing for colorectal cancer or lung cancer,’ laments the biochemist.
But in 2021, Quebec launched a first ‘lung cancer screening demonstration project’ in seven Quebec facilities to ‘determine the relevance of implementing a Quebec lung cancer screening program or not,’ according to the Ministry of Health and Social Services website.
‘Quebec is the first province to simultaneously conduct a lung cancer screening program. It’s a public health issue. It’s still one of the deadliest cancers in Quebec,’ notes Jean-François Haince, whose technology is part of the research process.
The provincial program, ending in 2025, is still accepting participants.
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Marie-Soleil Brault, Le Soleil
A journalism graduate from UQAM, Marie-Soleil Brault has been writing for Le Soleil for less than two years. A recipient of the CDPQ scholarship, she covers Quebec’s business community, from small enterprises to large state-owned corporations.”