The discovery of symptoms or abnormalities in the body such as a lump or growth by the patient or doctor could lead to the detection of cancer. Following this, a variety of tests that provide details about abnormal cells are used to diagnose the cancer – determine what type of cancer it is.
Since prevention is one of the most important cancer-fighting tools, accurate and early identification of the disease is crucial to prevent it from spreading. There’s good news for physicians and medical laboratories. Researchers at the University of Bradford have developed a simple blood test – the Lymphocyte Genome Sensitivity (LGS) test – that uses ultraviolet light (UVA) to detect circulating cancer cells. This novel test showed a high degree of accuracy in early trials and a recent report indicates that efforts are now underway to develop this method into a clinical laboratory test.
When white blood cells are exposed to ultraviolet light, cancerous cells can be distinguished from healthy cells. The study evaluated blood samples from 208 individuals. The samples were exposed to UVA light through five different depths of agar.
It was found that, compared to samples with healthy cells, those with cancer have DNA which is more easily damaged by ultraviolet light. Fifty-eight patients were ultimately diagnosed with cancer, 56 as having pre-cancerous conditions, and 94 as healthy.
The researchers say that the LGS test shows great promise as a "universal" blood test for cancer and will greatly enhance current investigative procedures for detecting cancer. Oncascan Ltd, the company created by Bradford to commercialize this new test, lists its benefits as follows:
- For patients: reduced stress, risk or discomfort arising from interventions
- For clinicians: greater speed and accuracy of diagnosis
- For health service providers: substantial cost savings, accessing social groups at risk of late presentation
The potential benefits of using the LGS test to reduce unnecessary and costly colonoscopies and biopsies are quite significant. As the assay involves manual processes, requires specific skills, and is suitable for testing only a small number of samples, Oncascan’s focus in 2015 will be on developing automated clinical testing methods.