One Blood Test for all Cancers?

Current methods of diagnosing cancer can be lengthy, costly and invasive. Traditional procedures such as colonoscopies and biopsies can be particularly unfavourable, especially when used only to rule out cancer for patients presenting certain symptoms. Researchers at the University of Bradford have therefore devised a simple blood test with the potential to rapidly and accurately detect cancer.

White blood cells to aid cancer diagnosis? Source: just-health.net

White blood cells to aid cancer diagnosis? Source: just-health.net

The study, recently published online in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, took blood samples from 208 individuals. The group included patients with melanoma, lung cancer and colon cancer, and also healthy volunteers. The team of researchers exposed white blood cells from these samples to different intensities of ultraviolet light, and then measured the damage this caused to the DNA. The test uncovered a clear distinction: ‘people with cancer have DNA which is more easily damaged by ultraviolet light than other people’ said Professor Diana Anderson, who led the research.

Comet assays rapidly quantify DNA damage. Source: news-medical.net

Comet assays rapidly quantify DNA damage. Source: news-medical.net

The Lymphocyte Genome Sensitivity (LGS) test measures DNA damage by pulling sections of DNA in an electric field so that a comet-like tail is formed. A longer tail indicates greater DNA damage, and the study successfully correlated measurements of extended tails to patients with cancer or pre-cancerous conditions. Anderson admitted that the number of participants in the research was relatively small, however still stated that ‘the results are powerful’ and much more work needs to be done.

A clinical trial to investigate the effectiveness of the LGS test in correctly diagnosing patients with suspected colon cancer is currently underway at Bradford Royal Infirmary. If successful, this test could be the start of an enormous advancement in the field of cancer diagnostics.

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Bethany Small

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