Potential 'universal' blood test for cancer discovered

July 28, 2014, University of Bradford

Researchers from the University of Bradford, UK, have devised a simple blood test that can be used to diagnose whether people have cancer or not.

The test will enable doctors to rule out cancer in patients presenting with certain symptoms, saving time and preventing costly and unnecessary invasive procedures such as colonoscopies and biopsies being carried out. Alternatively, it could be a useful aid for investigating patients who are suspected of having a cancer that is currently hard to diagnose.

Early results have shown the method gives a high degree of accuracy diagnosing cancer and pre-cancerous conditions from the blood of patients with melanoma, and . The research is published online in the FASEB Journal, the US Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

The Lymphocyte Genome Sensitivity (LGS) test looks at white blood cells and measures the damage caused to their DNA when subjected to different intensities of (UVA), which is known to damage DNA. The results of the empirical study show a clear distinction between the damage to the from patients with cancer, with pre-cancerous conditions and from healthy patients.

Professor Diana Anderson, from the University's School of Life Sciences led the research. She said: "White are part of the body's natural defence system. We know that they are under stress when they are fighting cancer or other diseases, so I wondered whether anything measureable could be seen if we put them under further stress with UVA light. We found that people with cancer have DNA which is more easily damaged by ultraviolet light than other people, so the test shows the sensitivity to damage of all the DNA – the genome – in a cell."

The study looked at blood samples taken from 208 individuals. Ninety-four healthy individuals were recruited from staff and students at the University of Bradford and 114 were collected from patients referred to specialist clinics within Bradford Royal Infirmary prior to diagnosis and treatment. The samples were coded, anonymised, randomised and then exposed to UVA light through five different depths of agar.

The UVA damage was observed in the form of pieces of DNA being pulled in an electric field towards the positive end of the field, causing a comet-like tail. In the LGS test, the longer the tail the more DNA damage, and the measurements correlated to those patients who were ultimately diagnosed with cancer (58), those with pre-cancerous conditions (56) and those who were healthy (94).

"These are early results completed on three different types of cancer and we accept that more research needs to be done; but these results so far are remarkable," said Professor Anderson. "Whilst the numbers of people we tested are, in epidemiological terms, quite small, in molecular epidemiological terms, the results are powerful. We've identified significant differences between the healthy volunteers, suspected cancer patients and confirmed cancer patients of mixed ages at a statistically significant level of P<0.001. This means that the possibility of these results happening by chance is 1 in 1000. We believe that this confirms the test's potential as a diagnostic tool."

Professor Anderson believes that if the LGS does prove to be a useful cancer diagnostic test, it would be a highly valuable addition to the more traditional investigative procedures for detecting cancer.

A clinical trial is currently underway at Bradford Royal Infirmary. This will investigate the effectiveness of the LGS test in correctly predicting which patients referred by their GPs with suspected colorectal cancer would, or would not, benefit from a colonoscopy – currently the preferred investigation method.

The University of Bradford has filed patents for the technology and a spin-out company, Oncascan, has been established to commercialise the research.

Explore further: New drug target can break down cancer's barrier against treatment

Related Stories

New drug target can break down cancer's barrier against treatment

July 27, 2014
Cancer research UK scientists at Barts Cancer Institute have found that targeting a molecule in blood vessels can make cancer therapy significantly more effective, according to research published in Nature.

A study concludes that sunscreens do not fully protect against the development of melanoma

July 14, 2014
The researcher at the Neurosciences Institute, Joint Center of the University Miguel Hernández (UMH) in Elche and the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), Berta López Sánchez-Laorden co-authored a study that ...

New test predicts survival in blood cancer patients

July 9, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Scientists have developed a test which accurately predicts the prognosis for patients with the most common form of leukaemia.

New hope for early detection of stomach cancer

March 17, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—University of Adelaide research has provided new hope for the early detection of stomach cancer with the identification of four new biomarkers in the blood of human cancer patients.

Genetic profile predicts which bladder cancer patients will benefit from early chemotherapy

May 30, 2014
Three genetic changes can predict whether a patient will benefit from chemotherapy before surgery to remove bladder cancer, according to new findings presented by Fox Chase Cancer Center researchers during the 50th Annual ...

FDA panel narrowly backs DNA colon cancer test

March 26, 2014
A panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers has narrowly backed an experimental blood test that uses patients' DNA to help screen for colon cancer.

Recommended for you

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.