Cancer is a deadly disease that will be diagnosed in over 1.7 million patients in the United States and over 14 million cases world-wide resulting in over 8 million cancer-related deaths every year[i]. Moreover, it has been estimated that the number of cases of cancer will rise to as many as 22 million cases worldwide within the next two decades[ii]. The ability to detect cancer in patients early in the genesis of their disease is critical for increasing a patient’s chance of long-term survival. Unfortunately, many forms of cancer often show little overt symptoms in the early stages of disease and are only detected when the cancer has metastasized to distant organs, causing damage to the affected organs, limiting treatment options for oncologists and ultimately decreasing a patient’s opportunity for cure.
It has been described in the literature that most cancer cells, unlike normal ones, express telomerase. Telomerase is an enzyme that helps maintain the length of the ends of the chromosomes, known as telomeres. Our technology is based on recombinant viral vectors that have been engineered to allow the cancer cell to fluoresce if the telomerase enzyme is present and it activates the reporter gene in the virus (see Figure 1 below).