David Suhy, PhD, on Using DNA Nanoplasmids to Detect Cancer


The cofounder and chief scientific officer at Earli discussed the company’s unique approach to cancer diagnosis.

“[I]t's fundamentally different than what most typical applications of gene therapy are... We're using it within the context of a diagnostic as one of our products. This is very atypical because essentially people have thought about using nucleic acids and cell therapy based approaches as therapeutics, but this is really one of the first scenarios where the nucleic acids themselves are being used in a diagnostic concept.”

Early detection of cancer is often critical to improving patient outcomes. Although a variety of methods for cancer diagnoses exist, many have limitations that novel detection methods could potentially improve upon. For example, liquid biopsy is not able to show the precise locations of tumors and metastases and 18F-FDG imaging approaches have a limited ability to show the presence of low-metabolic tumors.

Earli is currently developing a new approach to cancer detection that involves the use of a DNA construct with an engineered promoter that is preferentially activated by cancer cells, versus healthy cells or benign tumor cells, and leads the cancer cells to produce a cell surface receptor that can serve as a synthetic biomarker for use in detecting the cancer with relevant imaging methods. David Suhy, PhD, the cofounder and chief scientific officer of Earli, gave a presentation on this topic at the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT) 27th Annual Meeting, held May 7 to 10, 2024, in Baltimore, MD.

Prior to his presentation, CGTLive® sat down with Suhy at the conference to learn more about Earli’s approach to cancer detection and the key takeaways of the information he would be presenting at the Meeting. Suhy described the rationale behind the use of DNA vectors for cancer diagnosis and emphasized that high levels of transfection efficiency are not necessary for the approach to be successful for this purpose. He also pointed out that the same approach to delivering the receptor payloads for diagnostic purposes could also be used to deliver payloads for therapeutic purposes.

Click here to view more coverage of the 2024 ASGCT Annual Meeting.

1. Goryawala M, Lee HYH, Tong L, et al. Hostile takeover: diagnosing cancer from within using a cancer-activated genetic construct as a novel imaging platform for NSCLC detection. Presented at: ASGCT Annual Meeting 2024, May 7-10; Baltimore, Maryland. Abstract #417

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