Blood Test May Detect Cancer Seven Years Early

Blood Test May Detect Cancer Seven Years Early

Researchers have pinpointed proteins that might play a key role in the very early stages of cancer development, potentially allowing for the disease to be detected over seven years before clinical diagnosis. This discovery emerged from two studies funded by Cancer Research UK, which examined more than 600 proteins linked to 19 different cancer types, such as bowel, prostate, and breast cancer.

The research utilized blood samples collected from individuals at least seven years prior to their cancer diagnosis. According to Professor Ruth Travis, a senior molecular epidemiologist at Oxford Population Health and a leading author of the studies, understanding the drivers of cancer’s early stages is crucial for prevention. “These studies provide numerous new insights into the causes and biology of multiple cancers, revealing what happens years before the disease is clinically identified,” Travis explained.

The team’s approach, leveraging advanced proteomics technology, analyzed thousands of proteins and identified those associated with specific cancers as well as those common across multiple types. Dr. Iain Foulkes, executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK, highlighted the significance of detecting early molecular signals to prevent cancer. “This research is vital for developing preventative therapies that could substantially prolong lives and alleviate the fear of cancer,” Foulkes stated.

In one study, the scientists analyzed blood from over 44,000 participants in the UK Biobank, including 4,900 who were later diagnosed with cancer. They scrutinized a set of 1,463 proteins from each sample to pinpoint differences between those who developed cancer and those who did not. This comparison helped identify proteins linked to an increased risk of cancer.

Further, they discovered 182 proteins that differed in the blood samples taken three years before the participants were diagnosed with cancer. Another study examined genetic data from over 300,000 cancer cases to determine which blood proteins were involved in the onset of cancer and could potentially be targeted by new treatments.

The findings suggest that about 40 proteins could influence the risk of developing nine different cancer types, including bladder, breast, and lung cancer. While modifying these proteins could alter cancer risk, the potential for unintended side effects exists.

The researchers emphasized the necessity for additional studies to fully understand the role of these proteins in cancer development, develop reliable clinical tests for their detection, and create targeted drugs.

Currently, the Galleri test, which detects tumor DNA in blood, is under trial in the UK’s NHS. However, the proteins identified in these studies might offer new targets for cancer prevention and early detection, which are crucial for enhancing cancer survival rates.

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