Phase 1 Project
Exosomes (EX) are nanometer-sized, fluid-filled vesicles (“bubbles”), that are secreted in large amounts by cancer cells and can be retrieved from blood. EXs contain molecules characteristic of their parental cells and could be used to identify different types of cancer cells. Indeed, tumors are highly heterogeneous in terms of cellular composition and state of cells, and they evolve. The new frontier in cancer management is to track tumor heterogeneity with single-cell analysis, which requires tumor tissue and biopsies. Because EXs are expected to reflect tumor cell heterogeneity, they may be used as surrogate markers to identify the emergence of aggressive and resistant tumor clones simply by collecting a few droplets of blood. However, current exosome analysis technologies can only measure average values of EX populations, and hence do not capture the cell heterogeneity reflected in individual EXs, thus losing information that could uncover drivers of tumor progression and malignancy.
David Juncker, PhD, and his lab at McGill University have made key advances in nanotechnology. They will leverage these advances to develop a groundbreaking EX analysis tool for profiling protein and nucleic acid content of millions of EXs, with single molecule sensitivity and single EX resolution. This novel single EX analysis could disrupt and transform cancer management by providing a sensitive means for disease diagnosis and monitoring. Profiles of single EXs collected from blood at regular intervals (before and after surgery) may provide real-time snapshots of tumor heterogeneity for tracking the emergence of aggressive cellular clones, and may eventually be used to guide and personalize therapy. The successful outcome of the proposed research would open a new paradigm in clinical practices by adding EX monitoring as a powerful tool to the arsenal of available tools used to track cancer and guide therapy.