Existing cancer blood tests utilize antibodies that can bind to various kinds of cell surface proteins associated with cancer. Not all cancers have such markers and the biggest difficulty in the field of oncology is the accuracy of determining the stage at which the cancer is.
However, a new research by Danish researchers can turn the tables around. The method of detection pertains to a 2015 discovery, according to which, a protein produced by malarial parasite, can stick to cell-surface cancer cells whose occurrence is observed in 95% cancer types. Applying this concept in the laboratory, they infused a magnetic bead into a synthetically made malarial protein known as rVAR2 and released it into a blood sample. Remarkably, the protein bound to the malignant circulating tumor cells (CTCs) only and the researchers were able to isolate tumors from healthy cells through a magnet.
Repetitive studies are required to demonstrate the results further, however, published in Nature Communications, the results of the research claim to not only detect cancer at stage 1 (before it spreads) but at any other stage. It may also detect the phase in which cells of the primary tumor transform into an invasive migratory mode, yet to settle into secondary tumor formation. This phase otherwise is very hard to detect. Metastatic cancer causes about 90 percent of death due to cancer (7.4 million people worldwide).
Lead author, Ali Salanti, claims that this method can detect a substantial number of cancer cells than any existing test. The researchers conducted the experiment on prostate, colorectal, breast, lung cancers, osteosarcoma and melanoma cell lines. The protein was found to stick to all cancer cell types, bypassing healthy cells, particularly in liver, lung and pancreatic cancer cases. When 10 isolated pancreatic cancer cells were added into multiple healthy blood samples containing about 25 billion RBCs and 35 million WBCs, rVAR2 caught 8 to 9 cancer cells each time.
Salanti adds that based upon the number of tumor cells their method catches, it would be easy to tell whether a cancer is aggressive or not and respective treatment could be given as soon as possible.
Having conducted the experiment with successful results in a large pool of pancreatic cancer patients, hopefully, this new cancer blood test is hoped to serve as the most efficient form of detecting cancer at any stage!