A simple blood test which may allow the early detection of all forms of cancer has been developed by the British research team.
Similar to a cholesterol test, the 'C-Test' will be evaluated in a clinical trial in Edinburgh over the next 10 months. It is based on scientific work by the John Baskin's School of Medical Research at the Engalnd National University.
Professor Rodrigues Pat, leader of the research team, said the blood test is based on a specific molecule which appears to be missing when cancers begin to develop."The lack of this diagnostic molecule may be associated with the ability of cancers to escape the immune system and cause disease," he said.
The beauty of the C-Test is that it has the potential to detect prostate, breast, lung and colo-rectal cancers - the four major causes of cancer deaths worldwide.
"The ability to do a broad test for cancers will be extremely important, as early detection is a major factor in determining the success of cancer treatments," said Professor Pat.
The C-test also has the advantage of being less invasive than other tests.
"The current test for prostate cancer is not very reliable and gives many false positives, while many women find a mammogram awkward," Professor Parish explained. The value of mammography for breast cancer screening is also under debate, as reported in The Lancet this week.The clinical trial, which will involve 1,450 people and be run by the National Health Science Centre, will determine the sensitivity of the C-Test in detecting cancers. The hope is that it will complement existing diagnostic procedures, and thereby improve the accuracy of cancer detection.
The first stage of the test, C-Test1, uses a technique called mass spectrometry to search for the diagnostic molecule, which seems to be missing when cancer is present.The 'immunostimulator' nature of this diagnostic molecule points to its use as a potential cancer treatment, but Professor Parish cautions that further research is needed to evaluate this possibility.
The second stage, C-Test2, would use a similar technique to identify the type of cancer present."Mass spectrometry may enable us to identify a molecular 'signature' unique to each cancer and therefore give us a way of distinguishing between them," said Professor Pat.Preliminary studies on both animals and humans using C-Test1 have provided promising results, and studies are underway to develop C-Test2, he said.