An Oxford-based startup has been awarded £3m in investment to fund its fight against cancer.

Eka Ventures led the latest £3m ($3.7m) fundraise into Oxford Cancer Analytics (OXcan) with participation from LifeArc, MegaRobo Technologies, Oxford Technology Management and value-add individual investors.

Oxford Cancer Analytics is pioneering a new generation of blood-based liquid biopsy tests for early cancer detection.

It brings the total amount raised by the company, which also has a base in Toronto, to £4.5m ($5.5m) and will be used to expand its first-in-class international studies and developing products for the deadliest cancers that can benefit most from liquid biopsy early detection.

OXcan’s multidisciplinary team is developing a new generation of liquid biopsy blood tests using cutting-edge proteomics and machine learning approaches that can detect the deadliest cancers early, when they can still be cured.

This blood test can be conducted in an affordable, minimally invasive, and routine manner.

Could this startup beat lung cancer?

Most cancer deaths are in patients who have been diagnosed at a late stage, when the disease has  spread across the body and rendered incurable.

Unfortunately, these malignancies such as lung cancer, do not currently have effective screening methods for early detection. For example, lung cancer patients usually show no symptoms at the early stage.

There has been much excitement about the potential of a liquid biopsy blood test for early cancer detection, specifically using DNA in the blood known as cell-free DNA and targeted protein panels extrapolated from tissue data. OXcan believes its new generation of liquid biopsy tests can do better.

Dr Peter Jianrui Liu, OXcan’s CEO and co-founder, said:  “At OXcan, we are using state-of-art and unbiased high-throughput proteomics approaches to examine hundreds and thousands of proteins in blood samples from largest studies of their kind for the first time.

“Combined with proprietary and tailored machine learning approaches, the results are products that fully integrate with existing care pathways and can detect and localise the deadliest cancers with unprecedented sensitivity and specificity.”

£36m boost for AI tech to revolutionise NHS care

OXcan is working with more than 10 healthcare centres worldwide and has over tens of thousands of blood samples in the pipeline for product development.

In addition, the OXcan has support from internationally recognised organisations and experts, including the Francis Crick Institute, Cancer Research UK and leading professors in proteomics and medical oncology.

Andreas Halner, OXcan’s President and COO, said: “OXcan’s advances wouldn’t be possible without our interdisciplinary team, transcending oncology, machine learning and statistics.

“There is much global excitement about the application of machine learning in medicine. Ultimately, this potential can only be realised if robust mathematical methodology is coupled with clinical expertise.

“That’s why at OXcan, both rigorous science and an intimate understanding of clinical care pathways are essential to best help patients at risk of cancer and patients who already have cancer.”

Jon Coker, co-founder and general partner at Eka Ventures, said: “At Eka, we look to back transformative, data led technologies that can help shift our healthcare system to a more proactive and preventative system.

“OXcan’s technology has the potential to play a key part in that by enabling earlier, less expensive and more accessible cancer screening.

“We are also extremely focused on the expertise of the founding teams that we back and we believe Peter and Andreas have an unusual mix of deep clinical and technical expertise combined with a commercial desire to build a very large business.”