Breast Cancer Test Company Forms Based On UNC-Charlotte Research

May 22, 2016

A Charlotte company with ties to UNC-Charlotte is marketing a new medical test designed to help screen women for breast cancer.   WFAE's Mark Rumsey reports.

  

Researchers at UNC-Charlotte believe they've developed a method to detect breast cancer that's more effective than mammograms.  It's a blood screening that perhaps most notably detects cancer in women who have dense breast tissue.  Traditional mammograms often miss those tumors. 

The new test was developed by OncoTAb,  a company spun off from the biotech program at UNC-Charlotte. OncoTAb co-founder, Pinku Mukherjee says the blood test uses an antibody biomarker to identify a protein that is found in more than 90% of breast cancers. "It's a protein that is released from the cancer tissue into the bloodstream,  so this protein is then picked up by our test," says Mukherjee. 

UNC-Charlotte owns the patent to OncoTAb's screening technology, and Mukherjee chairs the university's Biological Sciences Department.  

The company isn't suggesting that women stop getting mammograms, and Mukherjee says women shouldn't rely on a single method to ensure that breast cancer is caught as early as possible. "There is no sure-shot, one-bullet test right now," says Mukherjee.  "We feel that our test may be an adjunct to other imaging, but there's no one test."

OncoTAb says women who want to use the company's blood screening technology to monitor for breast cancer will need a doctor's prescription, under FDA regulations.  A spokeswoman for the FDA says the agency can't comment on OncoTAb's screening technology.  The FDA has allowed some labs to offer such tests without federal approval. 

Results are posted to a patient portal within seven business days. So far, insurance does not cover the $199 cost of each blood test.