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Women Could See Great Promise in New Non-Invasive Cancer Test

Women Could See Great Promise in New Non-Invasive Cancer Test
March 30
10:36 2017

Cancer is the ‘C’ word that all of us are afraid to hear our doctors say.Unfortunately, the older we get, especially over the age of 40-50, the more likely it is that we may hear that frightening word – cancer.

For men, we fear skin, bone, lung, and pancreatic cancer, but not nearly as much as we fear testicular and prostate cancer. For women over 40-50, they also fear the more common forms of cancer that can strike anyone, but they really fear ovarian, cervical and breast cancer.

Not only do these strike terror in the lives of many women, but the thought of losing a part of themselves that identify with their femininity can be devastating. Finding out one has ovarian or cervical cancer can mean the end of child bearing for younger women or the fear of losing sexual intimacy with their husband.

From the women I’ve known and spoken to, it seems most fear losing one or both breasts even more. To many women, their breasts directly affect their appearance to the rest of the world and the last thing they want is to appear more flat chested than their husbands or boyfriends.

Detecting cancer is also something most people, including women, want to avoid. Having a long needle inserted into one’s breast, lung or other vital body part can be quite painful as well as intrusive and embarrassing. Currently, my 40-year-old daughter is dreading the thought of having a needle biopsy of a small tumor forming in her one lung. She has a rare non-hereditary genetic condition called McCune Albright Syndrome. One of the effects of the syndrome is tumors, which can occur anywhere in the body. While most are generally benign, some can become cancerous.

My wife tells me that she hates and dreads the standard mammogram screening process because it is quite painful having her breasts squashed in the machine. However, that may all be a thing of the past if a new technology for cancer screening passes more testing.

Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) have developed a testing method they call CancerLocator and it detects cancer using a drop of your blood and a computer program. According to a recent report:

“Professor Jasmine Zhou, co-lead author from the University of California at Los Angeles, said: ‘Non-invasive diagnosis of cancer is important, as it allows the early diagnosis of cancer, and the earlier the cancer is caught, the higher chance a patient has of beating the disease. We have developed a computer-driven test that can detect cancer, and also identify the type of cancer, from a single blood sample. The technology is in its infancy and requires further validation, but the potential benefits to patients are huge’.”

“The program works by looking for specific molecular patterns in cancer DNA that is free flowing in the patients’ blood and comparing the patterns against a database of tumour epigenetics, from different cancer types, collated by the authors. DNA from tumour cells is known to end up in the bloodstream in the earliest stages of cancer so offers a unique target for early detection of the disease.”

“Professor Zhou explained: ‘We built a database of epigenetic markers, specifically methylation patterns, which are common across many types of cancer and also specific to cancers originating from specific tissue, such as the lung or liver. We also compiled the same ‘molecular footprint’ for non-cancerous samples so we had a baseline footprint to compare the cancer samples against. These markers can be used to deconvolute the DNA found freely in the blood into tumor DNA and non-tumor DNA’.”

“In this study, the new computer program and two other methods (called Random Forest and Support Vector Machine) were tested with blood samples from 29 liver cancer patients, 12 lung cancer patients and 5 breast cancer patients. Tests were run 10 times on each sample to validate the results. The Random Forest and Support Vector Machine methods had an overall error rate (the chance that the test produces a false positive) of 0.646 and 0.604 respectively, while the new program obtained a lower error rate of 0.265.”

They also reported that the tests can not only determine if a cancer is present and where in the body it is located, but it can be detected before the patient displays any symptoms. This means that many cancers could be detected in their earliest stages, making the success of treatment much higher and less traumatic on the patient.

If proven to be as good as the preliminary tests indicate, this testing could be part of routine physicals by our physicians. Not only will doctors be checking weight, blood pressure, listening to heart and lungs, testing for things like diabetes and other possible conditions, but a simple blood draw could be taken and screened for cancer. It could possibly eliminate painful needle biopsies and could save countless women from losing those parts of their bodies that are so precious to them and their femininity.

 

 

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