A Method to Diagnose, Monitor, and Treat Cancer Using Information from Non-Human Nucleic Acids

Tech ID: 30030 / UC Case 2019-107-0


Increasing evidence indicates a key role for the bacterial microbiota in carcinogenesis. In fact, as much as 20% of the global cancer burden has been estimated to be caused by microbial agents. Many researchers believe the potential mechanism is through resident microbes’ influence on the immune system, with their abilities to dial up or dampen inflammation, as well as to manipulate the capabilities of various immune cells.

Based on data from studies using gnotobiotic mouse models colonized with one or more specific bacteria, it appears that microbiota can alter cancer susceptibility and progression by diverse mechanisms, such as modulating inflammation, inducing DNA damage, and producing metabolites involved in oncogenesis or tumor suppression. Emerging evidence suggests that microbiota can be manipulated for improving cancer treatment. However, nothing has been published on the possibility of using tissue microbiome population analyses in patient samples to diagnose, monitor, or treat cancer.

Technology Description

Researchers at UC San Diego have developed a method to accurately diagnose cancer solely using nucleic acids of non-human origin from a human tissue biopsy or blood-derived sample. It does this by looking for specific patterns of microbial nucleic acids and their relative abundances ('a signature') within the sample to assign a certain probability that the sample (1) originated from a tumor rather than a 'normal' site (e.g. the sample was a surgically resected solid tissue biopsy), (2) that the individual has cancer (e.g. the sample came from typical blood draw without the intention to diagnose cancer), or (3) that the individual has a particular type of cancer (e.g. a patient with suspected cancer has a blood draw taken to quickly diagnose which cancer it may be instead of doing radiation-based imaging studies [e.g. PET-CT]). The invention is novel because it uses nucleic acids of non-human origin to diagnose a condition (i.e. cancer) that is traditionally thought to be a disease of the human genome.


The present invention provides a method to accurately diagnose, monitor, or treat cancer and other diseases solely using nucleic acids of non-human origin from a human tissue biopsy or blood-derived sample. By constraining the size of our signatures, the tests can be made clinically available through the use of e.g. multiplexed qPCR, sequencers or microarrays.

Additionally, this method enables access to a brand-new set of candidates for pathway and drug discovery in the cancer field, including for cancer immunotherapy.


The invention is better than a typical pathology report because it does not rely upon observed tissue structure, cellular atypia, or any other subjective measures traditionally used to diagnose cancer. It can be done using either solid tissue or blood-derived samples, the latter of which require minimal sample prep and are minimally invasive.

State Of Development

The current state of development is in the experimental stage. The initial study that created the signatures was based on a very large population of more than 10,000 patients representing 30+ different types of cancer, with samples coming from 5+ cancer centers from all over US .

Intellectual Property Info

This technology is patent pending and available for licensing and/or research sponsorship.

Patent Status

Patent Pending


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Other Information


Cancer, cancer microbiome, diagnostic, liquid biopsy, microbiome, non-human, diagnostic signature, cancer pathway, cancer microenvironment, cancer therapy pipeline, immunotherapy

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