A revolutionary blood test that could detect any type of cancer has been developed by British scientists.
It is hoped the breakthrough will enable doctors to rule out cancer in patients presenting with certain symptoms – saving time and preventing costly and unnecessary invasive procedures and biopsies.
Early results have shown the simple test can diagnose cancer and pre-cancerous conditions from the blood of patients with melanoma, colon cancer and lung cancer with a high degree of accuracy.
The test has been able to diagnose cancer and pre-cancerous conditions from the blood of patients with the disease in their skin, colon or lungs
Alternatively, it could be a useful aid for investigating patients who are suspected of having a cancer that is currently hard to diagnose, say the University of Bradford researchers.
The Lymphocyte Genome Sensitivity (LGS) assesses white blood cells and measures the damage caused to their DNA when subjected to different intensities of ultraviolet light (UVA), which is known to damage DNA.
The Bradford scientists say there is a ‘clear distinction between the damage to the white blood cells from patients with cancer, with pre-cancerous conditions and from healthy patients’.
Research leader Professor Diana Anderson, from the University’s School of Life Sciences, said: ‘White blood cells 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.’
The conclusions were drawn after looking at the blood samples of 208 people – 94 were healthy members of university staff and students.
The other 114 were collected from patients referred to specialist clinics within Bradford Royal Infirmary prior to diagnosis and treatment.
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.
The test centres around damage to white blood cells (pictured). The researchers say there is a ‘clear distinction between the damage to the cells or those with or without cancer
The longer the tail, the more DNA damage. And these 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.
She added that while the numbers tested were small, the ‘results are powerful’.
The research is published online in FASEB Journal, the U.S. Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
The test’s accuracy is now being investigated in a clinical trial at Bradford Royal Infirmary with patients suspected to have colorectal cancer.
A patent has been filed for the technology and a spin-out company, Oncascan, has been established to commercialise the research.