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Innovation

Student helps brain cancer patients with quick new test

An engineering student has developed a test that can ensure faster and better treatment for cancer patients. The biotech company PentaBase calls the discovery groundbreaking.

By Birgitte Dalgaard, , 6/29/2020

About 1500 people are diagnosed with a brain tumor every year, but now engineering student Kamilla Kolding Bendixen has developed a method that can ensure more targeted treatment for the patients.

In her master thesis as MSc in Engineering in Chemistry, Kamilla Kolding Bendixen has developed a test that within two hours can give patients an answer to what unique fingerprint their brain cancer has. The answer is important for doctors to be able to give the individual cancer patient exactly the treatment that best combats the patient's specific form of cancer.

– Normally, to be on the safe side, patients will be offered both radiation therapy and chemotherapy. But if chemotherapy doesn’t have an effect on the specific form of cancer, avoiding useless chemotherapy that is hard on the body can give the patient an increased quality of life and ultimately a longer life, says Kamilla Kolding Bendixen.

Kamilla Kolding Bendixen has done the thesis in collaboration with the biotech company PentaBase, which has promptly hired her to build up a technical department. And PentaBase has high expectations for her new test method.

– We believe the discovery is groundbreaking. It is not a specific drug but a basic research discovery, which is rarely done by smaller private companies, says Ulf Christensen, CEO of PentaBase and continues:

– We expect a whole new range of products that will be the most innovative we have brought to the market so far. We hope that this product series can revolutionize the way in which epigenetic measurements are made and gain new knowledge about epigenetics and its applications for the welfare of human beings.

From two days to two hours

Kamilla Kolding Bendixen has been delving deep into epigenetics to find help for her new method. Popularly expressed, epigenetics is what makes our cells different from each other – so to speak their unique fingerprints.

– Our cells all contain the same DNA, yet we cannot smell with our hands. Epigenetics is about which genes are turned on and off, which is why our cells differ from one another despite containing the same DNA, explains Kamilla Kolding Bendixen.

Today, determining the fingerprint of the brain cancer is a very slow and expensive process. It typically takes two to three days. At the same time, the method is so hard on the DNA in the samples that many samples are destroyed in the process. Therefore, many patients are not offered the test at all, although it could ensure them targeted treatment.

– In my method, the sample passes through two machines. The last machine analyzes which genes are turned on and off in the cancer cells, thus revealing the fingerprints of the cancer cells, says Kamilla Kolding Bendixen.

Finding cancer through the blood

PentaBase expects to have the new test method on the market within a year. At the same time, the company sees great development potential.

The method can completely change the way in which we are able to monitor aging, as well as cancer and other diseases that emerge over time.

Ulf Christensen, CEO

– The method can completely change the way in which we are able to monitor aging, as well as cancer and other diseases that emerge over time. The invention is the first step towards being able to follow people's genetical change in a cheap and gentle way, says CEO Ulf Christensen.

Kamilla Kolding Bendixen explains that she has tested the method on tumor biopsies from brain cancer, but that the method can certainly be applied to other cancers.

– In addition, we will also continue work on transferring the method from tumor biopsies to blood samples. I expect we can develop the method so that in the future, we will be able to diagnose cancers accurately using a blood sample, says Kamilla Kolding Bendixen.

Meet Kamilla Kolding Bendixen

Kamilla Kolding Bendixen's first job as a MSc in Engineering in Chemistry is to start a technical department at the biotech company PentaBase. Although she has only just graduated as an engineer, she has already developed two products for PentaBase, where for two years she has held study jobs.