USC to Lead Public-Private Partnership Launched by the FNIH to Evaluate Liquid Biopsies as Biomarkers in Colorectal Cancer Patients

The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) Biomarkers Consortium is launching a research partnership to determine whether liquid biopsies can be used instead of traditional solid tumor biopsies for diagnosing and monitoring metastatic colorectal cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, metastatic colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

Peter Kuhn, PhD (pictured), of the University of Southern California (USC), will lead the project team for “High Definition Single Cell Analysis of Blood and Tissue Biopsies in Patients with Colorectal Cancer Undergoing Hepatic Metastasectomy” (HD-SCA). The team is comprised of experts from the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, USC, Scripps Clinic, Baylor College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic and four sponsoring pharmaceutical companies.

Jennifer Dyer, Executive Director of the USC Stevens Center for Innovation, said, “USC is aligned with the FNIH mission in harnessing the exponential thinking of diverse partners from government, industry, and academia around a common mission. We believe this effort led by Dr. Peter Kuhn will accelerate the translation of liquid biopsy research to enhance patient care.”

Tumor characterization by biopsy has the potential to be used to make decisions at every stage of cancer therapy. Ideally, doctors would design the most appropriate therapy by analyzing tumor biopsy material before beginning treatment. Then, the response of the tumor to treatment would be determined by analyzing biopsies throughout and after therapy. Finally, doctors could monitor remission or early signs of recurrence by periodically testing for tumor growth.

However, traditional solid tumor biopsy use is limited because the procedure is often invasive, cannot be done sequentially and does not always provide enough material for analysis. The HD-SCA project addresses the challenges of traditional solid tumor biopsy by measuring the characteristics of tumor cells from an easily accessible source: tumor cells found in the blood (liquid biopsy). The primary goal of this Biomarkers Consortium project is to determine how well biomarker measurements compare between solid tumor and liquid biopsies from patients with colorectal cancer. If liquid biopsy proves to perform as well as solid-tissue biopsy analysis, it could allow detailed, rapid and non-invasive tumor testing. This type of tumor analysis is essential for the broad application of personalized medicine in cancer. “Correlating the phenotypic and genotypic makeup of the primary cancer with its counterparts in the blood is critical to enable precise and accurate decision-making in personalized cancer care,” stated Dr. Peter Kuhn of the University of Southern California.

For more info, read the FNIH announcement.

About the USC Stevens Center for Innovation: The USC Stevens Center for Innovation is the technology transfer office for the University of Southern California and a university-wide resource for USC innovators in the Office of the Provost. The mission at the USC Stevens Center for Innovation is to maximize the translation of USC research into products for public benefit through licensing, collaborations, and the promotion of entrepreneurship and innovation. For more information, visit

About the Foundation for the NIH (FNIH): The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health creates and manages alliances with public and private institutions in support of the mission of the NIH, the world’s premier medical research agency. The Foundation, also known as the FNIH, works with its partners to accelerate biomedical research and strategies against diseases and health concerns in the United States and across the globe. The FNIH organizes and administers research projects; supports education and training of new researchers; organizes educational events and symposia; and administers a series of funds supporting a wide range of health issues. Established by Congress in 1990, the FNIH is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. For additional information about the FNIH, visit

–By USC Stevens staff, published May 4, 2016