Bioscience

Researchers working on cancer detection blood test

October 16, 2008

By Flinn Foundation

[Source: ALAN FISCHER, Tucson Citizen] – Researchers are working on a simple blood test to detect cancer a year before symptoms develop.

“Stopping cancer early is the best solution,” Dr. Samir M. Hanash told about 270 people attending the Biosciences Leadership Symposium: Translational Medicine at the University of Arizona Monday. The event continues Tuesday.

“We’re on a fast-track development of a blood-based cancer biomarker using proteomics,” said Hanash, molecular diagnostics program head at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “We are searching through thousands of proteins to see which one is a good marker for this or that type of cancer.”

By using proteomics, the study of the structures and functions of proteins, cancers such as breast, lung, pancreatic and others can be detected a year before symptoms develop, Hanash said.

He is using specimens collected at early stages of tumor development – before the onset of symptoms – from a variety of institutions, clinical trials and studies to have a broad base of samples, he said.

“This could have a great impact on treating cancer, before it metastasizes,” said Laurence Hurley, associate director of the UA BIO5 Institute. “The earlier you can treat the cancer the better.”

Bioscience is also leading to new technologies in rapid pathogen detection and identification, said Linda S. Powers, the Thomas R. Brown Professor of Bioengineering at UA.

She uses intrinsic fluorescence optical signatures to find microbial contaminants in water, air, food, mail and other places. The microbes give off light when excited by light having higher energy.

The detection technology is real time and uses no sample contact or added chemical reagents, she said.

“We look for the toxin itself,” she said. “We’re capable of pulling it out of very large volumes.”

A BioBadge, which can be worn around the neck like an identification card, “breathes” air into a chip that can be tested for bacteria, toxins and viruses, she said.

Mobile sensor technology provides quick and inexpensive tests for water supplies that can keep drinking water safe from contamination, she said.

One application was testing water wells to see if they were safe following Hurricane Katrina, she said