Freenome, Siemens join forces to develop blood test for breast cancer

The humble mammogram may soon be getting a complementary new partner to boost breast cancer screening.

Liquid biopsy developer Freenome and Medtech giant Siemens Healthineers are putting their heads together for just that purpose. Researchers from both companies will team up with a goal of identifying potential new targets for a blood test that could ultimately be administered alongside mammograms and other diagnostic imaging techniques to improve early detection of breast cancer.

The researchers will be using imaging, clinical and molecular data to locate new biomarkers—detectable in a standard blood draw—that indicate the presence of breast cancer before symptoms develop or it progresses too far.

“Siemens Healthineers is an established leader in the development of imaging and diagnostic technologies, especially in breast cancer screening with more recent improvements leveraging 3D mammograms or digital breast tomosynthesis,” Freenome CEO Mike Nolan said in a statement. “This collaboration will give us even more insights on how we can incorporate unique data types to address the unmet medical needs for one of the most common cancers.”

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In addition to Siemens’ experience in breast cancer diagnostics, the research collaboration will rely heavily on Freenome’s molecular data gathering and analysis expertise—and the artificial intelligence technology the company uses to perform those analyses.

The researchers will apply Freenome’s machine learning and other AI software to its epigenetic, proteomic, genomic and immunologic data to search for the most telling biomarkers or molecular signatures linked to breast cancer.

They’ll be looking specifically for blood test targets that complement those already identified by mammograms, breast MRIs and other currently used imaging techniques, with an ultimate aim of developing a liquid biopsy test that augments, rather than completely replaces, current breast cancer detection methods.

“With their multiomics approach in molecular diagnostics, Freenome is our partner of choice for this study,” said Rangarajan Sampath, head of Siemens’ Center for Innovation in Diagnostics. “Our collaboration in the identification and development of new biomarkers will allow us to work together toward a new patient-centric pathway to diagnose early-stage breast cancer.”

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Both Siemens and Freenome have spent the last year ramping up their cancer-centric diagnostic efforts. In April, for one, Siemens closed its massive $16.4 billion acquisition of Varian Medical Systems, expanding both the diagnostic and treatment segments of its existing cancer portfolio with the addition of Varian’s radiosurgery hardware, care management software and other oncology offerings.

Meanwhile, after racking up $270 million just over a year ago to continue developing its colorectal cancer-spotting blood test, Freenome has since released data showing that its multiomics-based liquid biopsy techniques are effective at detecting not only early-stage colon cancer but also, according to a September presentation, pancreatic cancer.