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Practice Case

June 01 2017

The following questions will give you an idea of what to expect during your assessment at ttopstart. The assessment has been designed as to test for skills that are relevant to our daily work, such as the ability to search for scientific information and judge its quality, to select the relevant facts and to process these in a succinct and applicable manner. The questions below have been used before in our assessments and their level of difficulty is representative of what you may expect at your assessment as well.
Please remember that we are more interested in your way of thinking than in the correctness of your answers. During your assessment you will be encouraged to use external data sources, such as Google, PubMed or patent databases.
The case below is fictional and solely provided for training purposes. No rights can be reserved from this case.


Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 8.2 million deaths in 2012 (Globocan, 2013). Depending on the patient’s medical status and stage of disease, chemotherapy, surgery, and/or targeted therapies are the mainstay for treatment of cancer patients.

Over the course of time, many cancer types develop from a localised malignancy to a systemic disease by means of metastases. One of the first steps of metastisation is the release of circulating tumour cells (CTCs) into the blood and lymph streams. The identification of such CTCs could be of prognostic and predictive value for the patient: knowing whether the tumour has started spreading is of tremendous importance for the patient's treatment. Importantly, the circulating cells could also be used to sample the (epi)genetic markers of the primary tumour.

Our (fictional) client, CTCES, is a spin-off from a large French university. CTCES has been established in 2010 and is developing a new platform to detect CTCs with high specificity and high sensitivity. The company has demonstrated that their platform has the capability to detect CTCs from all major tumour types. Also, the company has obtained very promising results with using CTCs as an alternative to tumour biopsies. The company will enter the oncology market, but has no idea for which market they will start to develop a solution. CTCES has hired an external expert (you) to support them with the decision-making process.

Practice Questions

Question 1: Cancer patients are mainly diagnosed through repeated tumour biopsies during their disease. While biopsies are accurate, they pose some major problems for certain cancer types. For which cancer types (e.g. breast) may biopsies constitute a big problem? And why?

Question 2: There is a major need for new innovative tools and technologies to address the problems associated with tumour biopsies. Identify 3 new innovative tools and/or technologies that are an alternative for tumour biopsies. Please also state their specific advantages.

Question 3: How would you set-up your market research to find an answer on the main question of CTCES? What are the most important considerations when deciding which markets the company should be focusing on?  Think about the different methodology/data sources that are at your disposal.

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Patrick de Boer, MSc
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