Renal Cancer Research by Sengenics and the University of Leeds Awarded Early Detection Primer Grant Funding from Cancer Research UK

Sengenics, the functional proteomics company, together with researchers at the University of Leeds have been awarded an Early Detection Primer grant by Cancer Research UK to explore the use of tumour-associated autoantibodies in the early detection of renal cancer. Cancer Research UK’s Early Detection Primer Award scheme supports researchers at all stages to develop early, novel and outside-the-box ideas and collaborations to build and make progress in the Early Detection field.

The University of Leeds has established a public-private partnership between the proteomics team at Leeds and Sengenics through a Research Collaboration Agreement. Working with Sengenics as the industry partner, this collaboration will focus on discovery of novel biomarkers for renal cell carcinoma (RCC), with the goal of developing an autoantibody panel for this disease.

Led by Dr Naveen Vasudev and Professor Rosamonde Banks from the University of Leeds’ School of Medicine, Sengenics’ KREX proteomics technology will be used to discover tumour-associated autoantibodies that may have clinical utility as both diagnostic and therapeutic biomolecules. Serum samples will be screened using the Sengenics IMMUNOME protein array, a KREX-based array with more than 1600 full-length, correctly folded and functional proteins, including >200 known cancer testis and cancer-related antigens.

There were over 400,000 new cases of kidney cancer in 2018 with 650,000 new cases estimated to be diagnosed annually by 2040. RCC constitutes approximately 90–95% of all kidney neoplasms and 25–30% of all patients had metastatic disease upon its diagnosis. The early detection of renal cancer represents a major opportunity to improve outcomes as surgical removal or ablation while the tumour is still small and localised to the kidney offers 5 year survival rates in excess of 90%.

Speaking on the collaboration, Dr Vasudev and Professor Banks, co-leads of the Clinical and Biomedical Proteomics group at the University of Leeds based on the St James’s University Hospital campus and interfaced with the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said, “Autoantibody production is a key indicator of several diseases. As they may be detectable many years before disease manifestation, autoantibodies have the potential to be excellent biomarkers for early diagnosis of cancers. The Sengenics KREX technology is a powerful tool for characterising serological responses with exceptional specificity and sensitivity. Using the KREX technology, we will examine the presence and clinical utility of tumour-associated autoantibodies in RCC. We are looking forward to working closely with Sengenics in achieving our goal of developing an autoantibody-based diagnostic test for Renal Cancer.”

Professor Jonathan Blackburn, CSO of Sengenics, said, “Early detection of RCC remains a major clinical gap because current screening tools suffer from low specificity and sensitivity. We are excited to collaborate with the Leeds team and anticipate that use of Sengenics’ unique protein array technology will ultimately lead to improved diagnostic tests for RCC disease.”

About Sengenics

Sengenics is a functional proteomics company that leverages its patented KREX technology for production of full-length, correctly folded and functional proteins. KREX was invented and patented by Professor Jonathan Blackburn whilst he was a member of the faculty at the University of Cambridge.

The key application of KREX is the discovery of autoantibody biomarkers for two core medical use cases. Firstly, stratification of patients undergoing treatment with autoimmune or cancer drugs into responders, non-responders and those that may exhibit severe immune-related adverse events (irAEs). Secondly, identification of autoantibody biomarkers that may be used to diagnose cancer, autoimmune or neurodegenerative conditions years before conventional diagnostic tests. Some autoantibodies that are identified as diagnostic biomarkers may be protective and have potential in themselves as therapeutic biomolecules.

About University of Leeds

The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK, with more than 38,000 students from more than 150 different countries. The University is a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities and plays a significant role in the Turing, Rosalind Franklin and Royce Institutes.

The University is also a top ten university for research and impact power in the UK, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, and is in the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings 2020.

Awarded a Gold rating by the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework in 2017, the University of Leeds is recognised for its ‘consistently outstanding’ teaching and learning provision. Twenty-six of its academics have been awarded National Teaching Fellowships – more than any other institution in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

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About Cancer Research UK

  • Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
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  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.
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