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Blood tests can detect cancer up to seven years earlier




Blood tests can detect cancer up to seven years earlier

A cocktail of proteins in the blood could indicate the presence of cancer several years before cancer diagnosis, according to newly published research.

The presence of these proteins could enable earlier detection of multiple different types of cancer and ultimately even lead to targeted treatments to prevent cancer development, two studies published in the journal suggest. Nature Communicationboth led by researchers from the University of Oxford’s Department of Public Health.

In the first studythe researchers analyzed blood samples from more than 44,000 participants British biobank cohort, including nearly 5,000 people who were later diagnosed with cancer. They used an analysis technique called proteomics, which generates massive amounts of data and uses machine learning to detect changes in proteins in biological samples.

The team compared blood proteins in people who did and did not develop cancer. They focused on 19 types of cancer and examined 1,461 proteins, finding that 618 of these proteins showed a significant association with the presence of cancer.

Strikingly, 107 of these proteins were detectable in blood samples taken from individuals up to seven years before their cancer diagnosis, and 182 proteins were changed at least three years before cancer diagnosis, leading to the possibility of detecting the disease much earlier. than current, traditional methods. methods.

“To prevent cancer, we need to understand the factors that drive the earliest stages of its development,” said Professor Ruth Travis, a senior molecular epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, who worked on both studies. “These studies are important because they provide many new clues about the causes and biology of multiple cancers, including insights into what happens years before cancer is diagnosed.”

The second study looked at a database of genetic data from 300,000 cancer types to learn more about which specific proteins are associated with the development of cancer and found 40 proteins that were associated with the development of at least one of the nine types of cancer, including 21 proteins that were associated with a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Of the 40 proteins found to be associated with at least one type of cancer, 18 are already targeted by existing drugs, raising the possibility of not only detecting cancers earlier, but also treating them, sometimes several years before they are traditionally diagnosed. .

“Preventing cancer means paying attention to the earliest warning signs of the disease. That means intensive, painstaking research to find the molecular signals we need to pay the most attention to,” said Iain Foulkes, Ph.D., executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK, which funded the work. “The discoveries from this research are the crucial first step toward delivering preventive therapies, which is the ultimate route to helping people live longer, better lives, free from the fear of cancer.”

However, the researchers urge caution, noting that targeting these proteins with drugs in otherwise apparently healthy individuals could cause side effects and that more research is needed to evaluate this.