SC27: Early Cancer Detection



There is a growing need for new diagnostic tests to detect early stages of cancer. This need is driven by the better treatment response and prolonged survival of patients whose cancer is detected in early stages. These cancers are small, localized and genetically more homogeneous than late stage tumors that are larger, more heterogeneous and have spread to distant organs. Early cancers are hard to detect because they do not have necrotic cores and may not yet be recognized by the immune system, so few of their cells are dying and releasing their contents into circulation. This course will discuss several different approaches to look for canonical cancer mutations, or downstream consequences of these mutations, to identify pre-symptomatic non-metastatic cancers and to develop novel tests with high sensitivity and specificity for the detection of early stage disease.


  • Exploring different technical approaches to early detection of cancer
  • Evaluating issues with screening tests for cancer
  • Developing evidence for clinical utility of cancer screening tests


Dracopoli_NicNicholas Dracopoli, PhD, CSO, DELFI Diagnostics

Nicholas (Nic) Dracopoli, PhD is Chief Scientific Officer at DELFI Diagnostics, a seed stage cancer diagnostics company based in Baltimore, MD. Previously he led oncology translational science teams at Bristol-Myers Squibb and Janssen. Prior to joining the pharmaceutical industry, he spent several years in the biotechnology industry at Sequana Therapeutics. Nic obtained his bachelor’s degree and doctorate from the University of London and completed postdoctoral fellowships at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, NY and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA. Subsequently, he served as an Assistant Director at the Whitehead/MIT Genome Center and as a Section Chief at the National Center for Human Genome Research at the National Institutes of Health. Nic has authored more than 70 scientific publications and has extensive experience in the fields of genomics, molecular biology and cancer research.

Hartman_Anne-ReneeAnne-Renee Hartman, MD, Biotech Executive, Advisor, and Investor

Anne-Renee Hartman is the former acting CMO and VP of Clinical Development and Medical Affairs at GRAIL where she was responsible for the design and execution of clinical programs to discover and validate cell-free nucleic acid technology for early detection of cancer. Prior to GRAIL, Anne-Renee was the Senior Vice President of Clinical Development at Myriad Genetics, Inc. At Myriad, Anne-Renee led the development of several commercialized diagnostics in oncology, including hereditary cancer testing, companion diagnostics for PARP therapy, and diagnostic and prognostic assays for melanoma, lung, and prostate cancer. Anne-Renee was previously an Assistant Professor of Medicine at The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, specializing in breast cancer genetics. She completed her oncology fellowship at Stanford where she helped set up the cancer genetics clinic. Anne-Renee holds a BS in Molecular Biology from Princeton University, an MD from the University of Michigan, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Chicago.

Putcha_GirishGirish Putcha, MD, CMO, Clinical Laboratory Director, Freenome

As Freenome’s Chief Medical Officer and Clinical Laboratory Director, Girish oversees the development and validation of Freenome’s tests and helps navigate the regulatory and reimbursement complexities of the healthcare industry. He continues to serve as a member of CMS’ Medicare Evidence Development & Coverage Advisory Committee.

Previously, Girish was Director of Laboratory Science for Palmetto’s MolDX program, which oversees coverage and reimbursement for molecular testing for over half of the Medicare population. In prior leadership roles at Life Technologies, Ariosa Diagnostics, and Crescendo Bioscience, he oversaw the development, validation, launch, and commercialization of tests in oncology, fetal-maternal health, and rheumatology. In roles at Panorama Capital and RiverVest Venture Partners, Girish focused on life science investments, serving on the boards of several portfolio companies, including Presidio Pharmaceuticals, PowerVision, and Phenomix.

Girish holds an MD, PhD in molecular neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis, and subspecialized in molecular genetic pathology at Stanford University, where he served as adjunct faculty. He completed undergraduate work at Rice University, and postgraduate studies at the University of London as a Marshall Scholar.

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