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Super-Sensitive Cancer Blood Test Earns “Top 10” Award from Clinical Research Forum

New York, NY  ·  February 17, 2021
NYGC Core Faculty Member Dan Landau, MD, PhD. Photo Credit: Rene Perez

Dan Landau, MD, PhD, Core Faculty Member at the New York Genome Center (NYGC), who holds a joint appointment as an Associate Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM), has been awarded a 2021 Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Award from the Clinical Research Forum. He has received this award in recognition for the study that he led last year describing a highly sensitive blood test for monitoring cancer progression and relapse.

The findings, entitled “Genome-wide cell-free DNA mutational integration enables ultra-sensitive cancer monitoring,” were published June 1 in Nature Medicine. Dr. Landau is senior author of the study and Dr. Asaf Zviran, a postdoctoral researcher in the Landau Lab during the study, is a co-first author on the paper, as are Rafi Schulman, an NYGC Bioinformatics Analyst during the study, and NYGC Bioinformatics Scientist Minita Shah.

An illustration from the Nature Medicine study.

The method developed in the study uses whole-genome sequencing of DNA in blood to detect mutations that are present in a given patient’s tumor. Powered by machine learning algorithms, the cancer-detection platform can recognize any of thousands of tumor-linked mutations. This makes it sensitive enough to work even in situations where traditional “liquid biopsy” techniques fail due to the low concentration and high fragmentation of tumor DNA in blood. The aim of the method is to enable doctors to monitor cancer progression and treatment response more acutely  than ever before—which should boost the effectiveness even of existing treatments.

The award is one of 10 given annually by the Clinical Research Forum for highly innovative and clinically translatable research with the potential to provide major benefits to patients. The Washington, D.C.-based organization is an influential advocate for government funding of clinical research and the interests of American clinical research institutions generally. The winners will present their award-winning research on March 30 at the Forum’s annual meeting, held online this year due to COVID-19.

“We’re very grateful for this award, and particularly gratified that the Clinical Research Forum has recognized the potential of this new technology to transform cancer care,” said Dr. Landau.

He and his team are continuing to develop the new method, which they call “MRDetect” in reference to the common challenge in cancer care of detecting “minimal residual disease.” The Landau Lab is working with collaborators to improve their machine learning approach and make the method even more sensitive. They are also testing its ability to help doctors optimize new immunotherapy treatments for certain cancers.

Drs. Landau and Zviran founded a company, C2i Genomics, based on their research done at the NYGC and WCM, that is dedicated to improving cancer patient lives and outcomes with their breakthrough tumor pattern recognition for liquid biopsy. They announced in June 2020 that C2i had raised $12 million in its Series A financing.

2021 Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Award Ceremony Video:

Read more about the award-winning study and C2i Genomics.

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