Oxford Cancer Biomarkers Ltd.'s CancerNav cell-based screening platform may be able to more accurately identify genes that influence drug sensitivity than traditional in vitro methods that do not provide insight into a biomarker's functional relevance. The company is using CancerNav to discover biomarkers for predicting patient response to new cancer therapies.

CancerNav is a loss-of-function screen that uses a library of small hairpin RNA (shRNA) molecules to generate a panel of cancer cells, each of which has a different gene silenced. By treating the entire panel with the same cytotoxic compound and noting which cells continue to grow, researchers can identify the gene or genes that are necessary for the compound's cytotoxicity or antiproliferative effects. Those genes then become biomarkers of sensitivity to that particular compound.