New Blood Test to Play Major Role in Fighting Cancer

Researchers at the National Human Genome Research Institute in the United States believe that they have made a major breakthrough in the fight against cancer, developing a blood test that detects five types of the deadly condition.

Scientists have discovered that when breast, bowel, lung, womb or stomach cancer is present in the body, one particular gene changes its chemical signature.

It is believed that the confirmation of this new indicator for cancer could reveal a great deal more information about how cancers begin and develop over time.

British experts believe that the new treatment will act like an alarm, providing a warning that cancer is present, and also offering additional information on when treatment will be effective.

The crucial signature was linked to a gene called ZNF154. Researchers found that when a tumour was present, the gene showed increased signs of ‘methylation’; a biological process which tells genes to switch to the ‘off’ position.

Dr Laura Elnitski, a computational biologist in the Intramural Research Program at National Human Genome Research Institute, stated that the new research was an impressive technical innovation, and one that could have a seriously positive impact on the treatment of cancer in the future.

“Finding a distinctive methylation-based signature is like looking for a spruce tree in a pine forest. It’s a technical challenge to identify, but we found an elevated methylation signature around the gene known as ZNF154 that is unique to tumours. We have laid the groundwork for developing a diagnostic test, which offers the hope of catching cancer earlier and dramatically improving the survival rate of people with many types of cancer.”

One of the big advantages of the new test is that colonoscopies would no longer be required in conjunction with it.

And it is estimated that around 70,000 people currently die in the UK alone from the cancers that can be detected by this new test.

Major experts on cancer are already commenting that this could make a significant contribution to saving lives.

Dr Alan Worsley, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information officer, commented: “Spotting cancers early could go a long way towards helping saving lives in the future. This paper suggests that certain chemical tags in a specific region of our DNA could be a warning klaxon for certain cancer types.”

With British cancer deaths standing at around 172,000 annually, the new blood test could have a massive impact on many people’s lives across the UK.

 

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