New blood test could provide early diagnosis of cancer
28th September 2012
Scientists claimed to have developed a simple blood test, which can accurately detect the early stages of breast and lung cancer in just an hour. Researchers from the Kansas State University developed the test that can detect cancer, even before symptoms like coughing and weight loss start. The test works by detecting increased enzyme activity in the body. Iron nanoparticles coated with amino acids and a dye, are introduced to small amounts of blood or urine from a patient. The amino acids and dye interact with enzymes in the patient’s urine or blood sample. Each type of cancer produces a specific enzyme pattern, or signature, that can be identified by doctors. The test was developed by chemistry professor Stefan Bossmann and anatomy professor Deryl Troyer. Professor Troyer said, “Right now the people who could benefit the most are those classified as at risk for cancer, such as heavy smokers and people who have a family history of cancer. The idea is these at risk groups could go to their physician’s office quarterly or once a year, take an easy to do, non invasive test, and be told early on whether cancer has possibly developed.” The fact that this test specifically tests for lung cancer and breast cancer, is of significant importance. The American Cancer Society estimates about 40,000 breast cancer deaths and 160,000 lung cancer deaths are expected in the United States for 2012. Also as these statistics from Cancer Research UK show below, lung and breast cancer are the two most commonly diagnosed cancers worldwide. The 10 Most Commonly Diagnosed Cancers Worldwide:
  • Lung – (13%)
  • Breast – (11%)
  • Colorectum – (10%)
  • Stomach – (8%)
  • Prostrate – (7%)
  • Liver – (6%)
  • Cervix – (4%)
  • Oesophagus – (4%)
  • Bladder – (3%)
  • Non Hodgkin Lymphoma – (3%)
Unfortunately breast and lung cancer also feature in the top 5, for most common causes of death from cancer worldwide. With the exception of breast cancer, most types of cancer can be categorized in 4 stages based on tumour growth and the spread of cancer cells throughout the body. The diagnosis is made in most situations in stage 2 or 3, when the survival rate is lower than stage 1 or 2.  In addition, Bossmann said, “that very few people manage to discover they have cancer in early stages.” Breast and lung cancer are typically found and diagnosed in stage 2, the stage when people often begin exhibiting symptoms such as pain, fatigue and coughing. Numerous studies show that the earlier cancer is detected, the greater chance a person has against the disease. “The problem, though, is that nobody knows they're in stage 1. There is often not a red flag to warn that something is wrong. Meanwhile, the person is losing critical time,” said Professor Bossmann. Researchers evaluated the test's accuracy on 32 separate participants in various stages of breast or lung cancer. Data was collected from 20 people with breast cancer, ranging in age from 36 to 81 years old and 12 people with lung cancer, ranging in age from 27 to 63 years old. Twelve people without cancer were also tested as a control group. This group ranged in age from 26 to 62 years old. A blood sample from each participant was tested three times. Analysis of the data showed a 95 percent success rate in detecting cancer in participants. Bossmann said, “These enzyme patterns can also help distinguish between cancer and an infection or other diseases, which commonly occur in the human body. For example, a person who smokes a lot of cigars may develop an inflammation in their lungs. That will drive up some of the markers in the test but not all of them. Doctors will be able to see whether there was too much smoke inhalation or if there is something more serious going on. False positives are something that we really want to avoid.” In addition to early detection, the test can be used to monitor cancer and observe the effectiveness of drugs, as a patient is being treated. Similarly, doctors can use the dye in the test to determine if the entirety of a tumour has been successfully removed from a patient after surgery. The researchers have designed a second testing method that is anticipated to produce the same results in about five minutes. Also, researchers want to develop a similar test to detect pancreatic cancer earlier.