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Toshiba Develops Technology for Visualizing Gene Activity of Breast Cancer Cells

Will Contribute to Accurate Diagnosis and Precision Treatment of Breast Cancer
17 Nov, 2018

Tokyo—Toshiba Corporation (TOKYO: 6502) is devoting resources to advance in personalized, precision medicine that will bring better diagnostics to a range of potentially fatal diseases, and cancer in particular. In a recent breakthrough, the company has developed a more effective approach to diagnosing breast cancer, the largest single cause of death of Japanese women in their 30s to 50s.

Breast cancers have various pathological types and genomic subtypes, and determining appropriate treatment relies on accurate diagnosis. Typically, definitive diagnosis requires specimens taken from patients in biopsies during health check-ups. Diagnosis is performed by observing cell-staining and detecting molecular markers. Treatment strategy is classified into intrinsic subtypes based on the four major markers.

However, classification based on these markers cannot recognize cell activity or changes over time. Decisions on more appropriate treatment requires additional and detailed cell information from highly accurate diagnostic technology.

Toshiba's new approach focuses on visualizing gene activity correlating with cancerization in individual cells. The main components of the new system are a biodegradable liposome and a CMOS image sensor. The biodegradable liposome is a tool for visualizing gene activity in live cells, and the CMOS image sensor plays the role of vessel for culturing the cells and the means for time-lapse imaging of the gene activity.

Toshiba's biodegradable and nano-sized liposome, developed with molecular design technology, is a highly effective approach to introducing encapsulated diagnostic DNA into a patient's living cells. The diagnostic DNA converts the cell's gene activity into luminescence, and the produced light signal is monitored by the CMOS image sensor in real time. This innovative method requires only a small amount of tissue, and introduces the possibility of diagnosis using tissue samples from a fine needle biopsy, which imposes much less stress on the patient.

Toshiba will move forward by developing diagnostic devices that use the technology, and aims to start clinical trials in 2022. The company also recognizes that transfecting biodegradable liposomes into cells can be applied in other areas of medicine, such as regenerative medicine, and will continue to explore the full potential of the technology.

Toshiba will present details of the new diagnostic technology at the 57th Annual Autumn Meeting of the Japanese Society of Clinical Cytology held in Yokohama on November 17 and 18, 2018.

The newly developed live cell activation system

Breast cancer cells identified by the system

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