Early detection of cancer could soon be possible with the help of a new non-invasive instrument, called a P-scan, developed by a scientist at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.
The instrument, developed by Dr. Yinfa Ma, Curators' Teaching Professor of chemistry at Missouri ST, will provide pre-cancer screening that not only detects cancer in the body, but is also capable of predicting the cancer's type and severity using a group of biomarkers.
"Cancer is the second-highest cause of death among all diseases. Early diagnosis of cancer is crucial, but not many people want to go to the hospital to undergo costly, invasive cancer screening," said Ma.
This study comes in line with the existing knowledge of pteridines, compounds found within the body that serve as important cofactors to regulate the metabolism of cells.
In the course of this study, Ma discovered that six pteridine derivatives can be detected in urine samples, and that levels for some pteridines increase significantly if there is a tumour inside the body.
Essentially, it was found that one molecule, called oncopterin, exists only in the urine of cancer patients, but not in healthy human subjects. However, further testing for oncopterin, using different techniques is still required.
Ma developed a prototype of a P-scan, and can be used to screen urine for oncopterine and the six other pteridine biomarkers. The oncopterin level in urine can be used to find out if cancer is going to develop, and varying levels of the six pteridines can actually provide a "fingerprint" of the type of cancer.
Ma hopes to develop the P-scan for commercial use in clinical laboratories for non-invasive early cancer screening.
"I won't give up. I will continue to work on this project until we have succeeded and can market the instrument to save people's lives," said Ma.