Many people view tumors as a homogenious mass of malignant cells that have hijacked our body’s normal status to grow unchecked by our immune system. In reality, tumors are an integrated system of interacting cell types, including malignant tumor cells, cancer stem cells (cancer precursor cells), immune cells such as leukocytes and macrophages, and stromal cells like fibroblasts and endothelial cells responsible for tissue growth and remodeling. The majority of current diagnostic approaches offer a limited view of cancer, because they fail to evaluate the tumor as a system composed of multiple, interacting cell types, not merely individual tumor cells.
Cancer is a System – Not a Cell: The increasingly recognized concept of cancer as an integrated system has led to significant changes in the cancer diagnostics market that will undoubtedly continue to evolve. The structural complexity and the nature of key interactions of tumor cells with stromal and immune cells, as noted above, emphasize the need for a cellular systems biology approach to cancer diagnostics.
Within this approach, tissue structure (morphology) provides important context for phenotypic biomarker expression, and measuring the tumor as a system of interacting components provides more meaningful diagnostic testing. It is essential to not only include biomarker expression information obtained from state-of-art multiplexing techniques, but also a practical utilization of tissue structure and cellular location, tied together to create relevant prognostic and predictive value.
Cernostics’ development of a proprietary, systems biology approach to evaluating multiple markers and cell types, in the context of tissue architecture, positions us in a unique and exciting place in the industry. The TissueCypher technology platform addresses the need to recognize cancer as a system, not a cell, and will provide actionable clinical information, including ongoing work addressing esophageal, lung, colon, and breast cancer.