BREAKTHROUGH! Cancer Diagnostics: New Accurate Cancer Test For Early Detection Of Prostate and Ovarian Based On Sugars Being Developed.
: Biotech and medical researchers from the University of Birmingham are developing a new type of diagnostic test that uses complex sugars to detect prostate cancer earlier and with greater accuracy.
The new diagnostic test works by identifying sugars, known as glycans, in blood. These sugars are attached to protein molecules called PSA and are known to undergo distinct but subtle changes when cancer is present in the body.
It has been observed that particular types of glycans are associated with different cancers but until now, there has been no technology available to detect the glycans in an accurate, timely and sufficiently specific way.
The research team from the University of Birmingham's School of Chemical Engineering, has now developed a technique that can identify glycans associated with cancer with unprecedented accuracy. The technology has been patented by University of Birmingham Enterprise.
The research findings are published in journal: Advanced Functional Materials
The new diagnostic technique works by using a synthetic carbohydrate material to create a mold of the specific glycan. These 'receptors' are then fixed in position on a surface so they bind to that glycan, but not to any others.
"Significantly, we have developed a technique that has the ability to pinpoint glycans with such specificity. A PSA molecule can have 56 different sugars attached to it, but only four are associated with prostate cancer. With this test, we are able to identify those four with certainty," said Professor Dr Paula Mendes from the University of Birmingham's School of Chemical Engineering, who is the lead author of the paper.
Furthermore the number of glycans identified in this way will show not only if cancer is present, but how aggressive or advanced the cancer is.
The research team expects to begin applying the technique to clinical samples in the laboratory later this year.
Interestingly a new test for prostate cancer is urgently needed because current tests are only able to give an indication of increased PSA in blood samples. This can give false positive results in around 50 per cent of cases. This is because a man's PSA level can become elevated for a number of different reasons, not necessarily related to cancer. In addition, around 25 per cent of men who do have prostate cancer do not have elevated PSA, so the test fails to diagnose these patients.
Dr Mendes says, "Many patients undergoing the PSA test will be falsely diagnosed, causing them be sent for further, more invasive tests, and this places a lot of stress on the patient, as well as being very expensive for health services. Just as worrying, many men have low levels of PSA that do not show up well in tests. By measuring the glycans, however, we can offer diagnoses that are much more precise, not only detecting cancer at an earlier stage, but identifying how aggressive it is too."
The research team also hopes
to be able to apply the technology to detecting other cancers and has already started to develop a test for ovarian cancer.
Dr Mendes explained, "Ovarian cancer is typically detected at a very late stage, when treatment options are very limited, and so survival rates are very low. Because our test is highly specific, it should be possible to apply it to a number of different types of cancer."
The study was funded by Prostate Cancer UK, as part of the charity's Research Innovation Awards Scheme.
"Early and accurate diagnosis of prostate cancer is critical to ensuring we cure more men of prostate cancer while reducing side effects from over treatment. While PSA can be a helpful test, It is often elevated in people who don't have prostate cancer and tells us nothing about how aggressive the disease might be in people who do.” said Dr David Montgomery, Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK.
He further added, "While at an early stage, this research could make PSA a much more specific and accurate way not only to diagnose prostate cancer, but also to tell who needs urgent treatment and whose cancer is less aggressive and can safely be watched. Ultimately, this could help us cure more men and harm fewer.”
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