Test For Cancer In A Drop Of Blood
Chinese scientists have tested a new cancer biomarker detection kit in clinical trials, showing that it can be used to diagnose lung cancer.
Asian Scientist (Dec. 4, 2013) - Chinese scientists have tested a new cancer biomarker detection kit in clinical trials, showing that a drop of blood can be all that is required to diagnose lung cancer.
According to a report in China Daily, Luo Yongzhang and his team at Tsinghua University are the first to identify heat shock protein 90 alpha (Hsp90 alpha for short) as a tumor biomarker, a cell protein that is present at higher levels in the blood of cancer patients compared to a healthy person.
"Levels of tumor biomarkers increase in accordance with cancer progression. It has become a useful approach for disease monitoring and efficient evaluation," Luo said in an interview with China Daily.
Luo's team have been studying Hsp90 alpha since 2009 and it is the first cancer biomarker to be discovered by scientists in China.
In their 2009 study, Luo and his colleagues reported how the secretion of Hsp90 alpha was regulated in tumor cells and showed that the plasma level of the secreted protein in cancer patients is significantly higher than it is in healthy people.
The researchers subsequently collaborated with the biotech company Protgen Ltd to develop a quantitative detection kit for Hsp90 alpha. The kit requires only a drop of blood (approximately 10 microliters) to measure Hsp90 alpha protein levels for disease monitoring and therapeutic evaluation.
"This is a much more convenient and cheaper method compared with other traditional means of tumor detection; for example, computed tomography," Luo told China Daily.
The kit has since been used in clinical trials involving 2,347 patients at eight hospitals in China. The clinical trials showed the protein to be a useful tumor biomarker for lung cancer.
The kit was approved by the China Food and Drug Administration in April this year as a medical device for disease monitoring and efficacy evaluation. It has also received European Conformity certification and ISO 13485 certification.
"Usually, doctors use multiple biomarkers to decide a patient's condition, because individual differences may impair their judgment. So the discovery of this new biomarker, Hsp90 alpha, offers a new option for doctors and patients," Fu Yan, a member of Luo's team, told China Daily.
According to the researchers, more clinical trials for six different cancers, including liver, breast, and colorectal cancer, have already started.
"Very few of the known tumor biomarkers are specific for only one type of cancer, and there may not be any. As for Hsp90 alpha, it is sensitive to many cancers in theory, but we need to carry out more studies to find out," Fu said in the interview with China Daily.
Source: China Daily; Photo: rosmary/Flickr/CC.
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