Now, a pill to tell if you are suffering from cancer | health and fitness | Hindustan Times
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Now, a pill to tell if you are suffering from cancer

Scientists have designed a 'pill' that can be used to test whether a person is inflicted with cancer without actually going through a cumbersome process of biopsy.

health and fitness Updated: Feb 24, 2015 14:35 IST
Vanita Srivastava
The-pill-when-swallowed-leads-to-a-unique-molecule-to-be-made-by-cancer-cells-if-they-exist-anywhere-in-the-body-Photo-Shutterstock
The-pill-when-swallowed-leads-to-a-unique-molecule-to-be-made-by-cancer-cells-if-they-exist-anywhere-in-the-body-Photo-Shutterstock

Scientists have designed a 'pill' that can be used to test whether a person is inflicted with cancer without actually going through a cumbersome process of biopsy.

The latest research conducted on mice by John Ronald and Sanjiv Gambhir has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on February 23.

"We have developed a new way in which a pill is swallowed that leads to a unique molecule to be made by cancer cells if they exist anywhere in your body. If they don't exist in your body then no such molecule is made. The molecule if made by cancer cells enters the blood so that a small sample of your blood tells us if any cancer cells may be present," said, Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, Director, Canary Center at Stanford for Cancer Early Detection, Stanford University School of Medicine.

"This approach does not rely on cancer cells naturally making a molecule. It instead forces them to make a molecule for us. This is an artificial biomarker approach. It has the advantage of being very specific for cancer cells. Normal cells won't make the molecule so nothing will be detectable in the blood. Unlike, existing tests (e.g., psa for prostate cancer) which are molecules made by both cancer and non-cancer cells. This approach is very specific for cancer," Dr Gambhir who hails from Ambala said.

The study has been proven only in mice with cancer and need to translate the approach to humans safety.

Maintaining that this was much better improved tests for earlier cancer detection, he said this would lead to catching cancer earlier and saving of live.

"We will continue to refine the system further. Right now we can detect tumors that are several millimeters in diameter. We want to detect tumors that are less than a millimeter in diameter. Also, we need to make the pill work better. Right now we give the contents of the pill directly into the blood. We need to make simpler so you can swallow a pill that can tell if you have cancer. Also of course we have only proven this in mice with cancer and need to translate the approach to humans safely."

This doesn't tell where in the body the cancer hides…only that it may exist somewhere. "However we then also have an approach in which the same pill causes signal inside cancer cells so that they can also be imaged.

The imaging to locate the cancer would be the second step after the pill tells us that a cancer exists somewhere in the body.