Blood test for cancer screening

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Biomarkers help in the early detection of cancer

The earlier the stage of the disease in which cancer is recognized, the higher the chances of successful treatment. Therefore, early detection of cancer is particularly important. In the future, so-called biomarkers could help to detect the disease much earlier than before through a blood test, German researchers report in the journal "Nature Methods".

With the help of one of the bioinformatician Dr. Andreas Keller at the Saarland University developed a biomarker concept. Sebastian Häusler, Dr. Jörg Wischhusen and Professor Johannes Dietl from the University Women's Clinic in Würzburg developed the basis for a blood test last year that can diagnose cancer relatively early on in the disease. The researchers found special so-called "microRNAs" in tumor patients with ovarian cancer, which could be clearly differentiated from healthy patients and are therefore well suited for cancer diagnosis with the help of blood tests, the researchers at the University Women's Clinic reported last year in the "British Journal of Cancer ".

Biomarkers to differentiate between different clinical pictures Now scientists across Germany under the leadership of Dr. Andreas Keller from Heidelberg's “Biomarker Discovery Center” transferred the test procedure to 14 diseases, some of which are very difficult to diagnose, such as tumors of the pancreas, gastrointestinal tract or prostate, as part of a follow-up study. The researchers also used the blood test based on biomarkers to diagnose multiple sclerosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This "showed overall a high specificity for the individual clinical pictures, which could be distinguished diagnostically well from each other and from healthy control groups", explained the Würzburg expert Dr. Jörg Wischhusen. According to the researcher, the new test method was more than 90 percent reliable in diagnosing cancer, and was as high as 99 percent for individual clinical pictures.

To determine possible natural delimitation criteria for the different diseases, the scientists led by Dr. Keller looked in the patients' blood samples for biomarkers that could be used for a diagnosis. Tiny fragments of ribonucleic acid (RNA) - so-called microRNA molecules - that were first discovered in 2001 show significant differences in healthy and sick people, according to the experts. As part of their study, the scientists were now able to demonstrate that the tiny RNA fragments are different for each cancer type examined, so that they can be clearly diagnosed based on their "microRNA pattern" in the blood samples. Now all that is needed is a suitable blood test procedure to put cancer diagnosis into practice in the future using biomarkers, the researchers report. However, it will probably take some time before a corresponding test procedure is ready for the market, according to Dr. Keller and colleagues.

Biomarkers as the basis for improved cancer diagnosis The basis for a significantly improved early detection of cancer with the help of blood tests has been laid by decoding appropriate biomarkers and in view of the relatively serious health consequences that can result from cancer, the need seems enormous. However, the avoidance or early diagnosis of cancer can often make less money than the treatment, so that the question remains open as to who will lead the new method of cancer diagnosis to market maturity with the help of biomarkers. (fp)

Read about cancer:
Cell phone radiation may cause cancer
Men too rarely in early cancer detection
Breast Cancer: Do Costs Prevent Better Screening?
Many tumor patients use alternative therapies
Immune defense blocks cancer growth
Being overweight as a trigger for cancer

Image: Rainer Sturm /

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