Researchers at the UK’s University of Sheffield have identified and cataloged 788 new blood biomarkers for cancer which can be used to tell if patients are clear of cancer, whether they are at risk of developing a range of different cancers, and if cancer is present, which types of tumors have developed.
The research team pored through more than 19,000 research studies from the past five years that focused on blood biomarkers for cancer. Those studies were reduced to 4,000, from which the researchers were able to identify 788 different blood biomarkers for cancer.
Previous studies have focused on small sets of biomarkers. Usually under 40 different biomarkers are used. The University of Sheffield’s research should now enable biomedical scientists to develop much more comprehensive screening programs to ensure the disease is caught early.
Many of the biomarkers can be used to determine whether patients have a high risk of developing cancer, so it is hoped that early screening will enable patients to make lifestyle changes to reduce risk and prevent the onset of the disease. The hope is that more comprehensive testing will ensure treatments can be commenced – or lifestyle changes made – when they are likely to be most effective.
Funding for the study was provided by the Early Cancer Detection Consortium (ECDC). ECDC director and Professor of Pathology and at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, Professor Ian Cree, explained that validation and clinical studies are now being conducted and the research team expects to have around 50 cancer biomarkers which will go forward into a clinical trial.
He said “Our vision is that the screen will pick up even the small amounts of these biomarkers that might be in the blood at an early stage of the cancer, without necessarily identifying which cancer they relate to.”
Any patient that undergoes screening who is found to have one or more cancer biomarkers will then be referred for further testing to identify the specific type of tumor they have.