A new technique to detect early-stage cancer in the blood by using a malaria protein has been developed by researchers at an Australian university.
The research work has been by the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
They have developed a method where they take a blood sample and with great sensitivity and specificity, they are able to retrieve the individual cancer cells from the blood.
“We catch the cancer cells in greater numbers than existing methods, which offers the opportunity to detect cancer earlier and thus improve outcome for patients,” said UNSW professor, Chris Heeschen.
“Hope is that this method, in which malaria protein VAR2CSA sticks to cancer cells, can be used as a more effective way to screen for cancer in the near future,” he added.
The new method can be used more broadly to diagnose cancer as it is not limited by cancer type. It only needed a blood sample for a cancer diagnosis.
Previous methods to detect cancer in blood relied on detecting a particular marker found on the surface of tumour cells.
These methods are also unable to detect tumour cells spread to other organs like the liver, lungs, and bone.
The method based on the malaria protein does not discriminate between cancer types and can detect all carcinoma cancers, accounting for 95 percent of cancers detected in humans.