Now doctors may soon be able to detect and monitor a patient’s cancer with a simple blood test, reducing or eliminating the need for more invasive procedures, according to a new research.
The study identified a series of proteins in blood plasma that, when elevated, signify that the patient has cancer. Protein phosphorylation, the addition of a phosphate group to a protein, can lead to cancer cell formation. Thus, the phosphorylated proteins – known as phosphoproteins – have been seen as the prime candidates for cancer biomarkers.
“This is definitely a breakthrough, showing the feasibility of using phosphoproteins in blood for detecting and monitoring diseases,” said W. Andy Tao, professor at the Purdue University in Indiana, US.
In the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team found nearly 2,400 phosphoproteins in a blood sample and identified 144 that were significantly elevated in cancer patients.
The researchers then compared 1-milliliter blood samples from 30 breast cancer patients with six healthy controls. “The samples we used were five years old, and we were still able to identify phosphoproteins, suggesting this is a viable method for identifying disease biomarkers,” Tao said.
“There is currently almost no way to monitor patients after treatment. Doctors have to wait until cancer comes back,” he added.
This simple blood test for cancer would be far less invasive than scopes or biopsies that remove tissue. A doctor could also regularly test a cancer patient’s blood to understand the effectiveness of treatment and monitor patients after treatment to see if the cancer is returning.
The study, which relies on analysis of microvesicles and exosomes in blood plasma, was conducted using samples from breast cancer patients, but it is possible the method could work for any type of cancer and other types of diseases.
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