But unlike "Field of Dreams," players in the scientific arena are facing the task of not only building better cancer diagnostics, but also making sure that patients can obtain them at a reasonable price.
Trovagene, Inc., a developer of trans-renal molecular diagnostics, believes it is entering the end-game in its quest.
The company is focusing on the twin objectives as it works toward a year-end goal of offering a urine-based test that detects mutations in pancreatic and colon cancers, and at the same time is less expensive than currently available tests whose costs sometimes shut out those who need them to survive.
The evidence of urgency is mounting.
Of all chronic diseases, cancer has the highest treatment price per person in the United States.
The National Cancer Institute reports that if costs for new diagnostic tests and cancer treatment rise 5% a year, the tab could reach a staggering $207 billion a year. (The estimate for 2010 was $127 billion, the Institute said).
One quarter of cancer patients in the U.S. put off getting a test or treatment because of the high cost, according to a recent national survey by the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network. One third of the patients were under 65.
Against this troubling backdrop, healthcare professional are zeroing in on cancer diagnostics because faster and more accurate detection not only enhances the chance of patient survival, but attacks spiraling costs.
Trovagene's patented, non-invasive test was described by BioMedReports in February as a new-generation diagnostic platform that could dramatically change the molecular in-vitro diagnostics industry.
The company's technology differs from others not only in the simplicity and safety of design, but is significantly important on the issue of cost reduction by the potential to replace complex and less accurate earlier technologies based on circulating cells and nucleic acids in blood.
Trovagene scientists found that prevailing diagnostics are "not sensitive enough, not specific enough" to provide an alert that would enable doctors to act decisively. They say they are on the brink of developing a "molecular fingerprint"
In blood-based testing, large amounts of samples must be taken because cancer mutations are relatively rare. This is an expensive, time-consuming procedure that can lead to obsolete findings.
This may be fine for research, but not for routine diagnostics, scientists believe. Trovagene found that the mutated cancer genes measured in the blood also pass through the kidney and can be detected in urine. There are no expensive volume restrictions for urine.
In addition, the financial burden will likely rise as new gene-targeting drugs will be used in combination with others in an effort to cut off roadways accessible to other tumors.
Trovagene believes it is establishing a less-costly digital PRC process for combinations with urine samples. What results is a comprehensive cancer monitoring system for a specific cancer.
The scientists say that the key to making cancer therapy most cost-effective is to find these targeted agents and use genetic tests to narrow down which one a patient will substantially benefit from rather than giving all patients multiple tests.
Trovagene is led by a triumvirate of experienced and innovative leaders with an impressive resume of accomplishments in biotechnology. They include CEO Antonius Schuh, a former Sequenom CEO and founder of molecular oncology diagnostics AviaraDx; Board Chairman Dr. Thomas A. Adams, founder of Gen-Probe, a leading molecular diagnostics product and services company; and Trovagene founder Gabriele Cerrone, founder of FermaVir Pharmaceuticals, which was sold to Inhibitex, in turn acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb.
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