Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) launched a project to develop a next-generation diagnosis system that enables to detect 13 types of cancers including breast and large bowel cancers with a blood sampling.

The project is participated in by nine firms/organizations including National Cancer Center (NCC), National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology (NCGG), Toshiba Corp and Toray Industries Inc.

In the project, microRNAs (micro-ribonucleic acids) secreted by cancer cells will be focused on. Early detection of cancer and determination of the type of cancer are realized by using microRNAs specific to each of the 13 types of cancers. The diagnosis system will also be targeted at dementia. The organizations aim to develop a system applicable to medical practices by the end of fiscal 2018.

With existing tumor markers used for cancer detection, numerical values often do not increase until cancer progresses. With some tumor makers such as PSA (for prostate cancer) and CA125 (for ovarian cancer), numerical values rise at an early stage, but their sensitivity and specificity are not high enough. And they are hardly used for mass screening for early detection. Also, from the viewpoint of the individualization of treatment, it is required to develop biomarkers that enable to predict differences among individual cases.

In the project, microRNAs will be analyzed on a large scale by using clinical information and blood samples stored by NCC and NCGG. MicroRNAs are RNAs that exist in cells and are as long as 18-25 bases. Through the analysis, the organizations plan to specify micro RNAs that help detect early-stage cancers and dementia and predict differences among individual cases.

In addition to NCC and NCGG, the project is contracted to Toray, Toshiba, Japan Micro Array Consortium (JMAC), Japan Biological Informatics Consortium (JBiC), Precision System Science (PSS) Co Ltd, Arkray Inc and Kyoto Institute of Technology. The period of the project is from fiscal 2014 to fiscal 2018. It is expected to cost about ¥7.9 billion (approx US$77.5 million) in total.