A new technology for tumor vesicle analysis in cancer diagnosis

A new technology for quantification and characterisation of extracellular vesicles in complex clinical samples.

Body fluids like blood and urine contain small vesicles that are secreted by tumor cells. These vesicles and the markers on their surface have a high potential to indicate the presence of cancer, without the need to extract tissue samples from the patient. However, the current technology to analyse these vesicles in complex body fluids is not sufficiently developed. Therefore, vesicle researchers of the Erasmus MC together with optical technology experts of Dispertech B.V., will develop methods and a dedicated microscope to enable fast and sensitive analysis of these vesicles and their disease markers in blood and urine.

Minimally invasive analysis of these vesicles and their disease markers, will lead to earlier detection of disease, a better individual risk-estimation, better treatment options and potentially personalised treatment. As each year 20,000 people are being diagnosed with a urogenital tumour, leading to an estimated total cost of 1 billion euro in the Netherlands alone, there is much to gain from a patient’s and economic point of view.

By developing dedicated vesicle sample processing methods to isolate vesicles from complex clinical blood and urine samples and the fluorescent labelling of vesicles with their disease related surface markers, this project will visualise and analyse individual vesicles in an innovative vesicle assay using a dedicated light-sheet microscope. Presence of combinations of tumour biomarkers will indicate the presence of prostate or bladder cancer.

The developed methods to isolate and fluorescently label vesicles and their surface markers together with the newly developed dedicated vesicle microscope will be tested in a proof-of-concept study on clinical blood and urine samples of patients with prostate and bladder cancer that were previously collected by a biobank. Together, technology and device, will lead to a complete assay for analysis of individual EVs in clinical samples for scientific research and potentially clinical implementation.

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The high potential of tumor vesicles as disease biomarkers is not fully exploited because sensitive and reliable technologies are lacking. This project will develop and demonstrate a new technology for EV analysis in complex clinical samples to enable maturation of vesicle research, identification of novel diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers and their clinical application.
Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
2 - 4
Time period
18 months