Flexible new method for early cancer diagnosis

May 22, 2017 by Margareta Gustafsson Kubista, University of Gothenburg

Earlier discovery of cancer and greater precision in the treatment process are the objectives of a new method developed by researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy and Boston University. Investments are now being made to roll out this innovation across healthcare and broaden the scope of the research in this field.

"We can screen at-risk patient groups, and we also plan to spot the cancer patients who are relapsing so that we can adapt their treatment," says Anders Ståhlberg, docent in molecular medicine and corresponding author for two articles about the method.

The technique was created based on the fact that people with cancer also have DNA from circulating in the blood, molecules that can be discovered in a regular blood sample long before the tumor is visible via imaging such as tomography, MRI, X-ray and ultrasound.

The researchers have now increased the sensitivity of detecting tumor DNA in blood thousand-fold by eliminating the background noise from the measurements using "DNA barcoding".

Soon Ready for Patients

"One of the benefits of the technique is that it makes use of available instrumentation, which means it can be applied in most labs. We are not first in the world to show that barcoding concept works, but in our case we have developed a fast and flexible method that is simple, flexible and cost-effective to use," says Anders Ståhlberg.

In articles in Nature Protocols and Nucleic Acids Research, he and his colleagues talk about how the ultra-sensitive mutation analyses find individual tumor cell molecules among 10,000 healthy molecules.

The method is now also being implemented as a generic platform at Sahlgrenska University Hospital by the Wallenberg Center for Molecular and Translational Medicine at University of Gothenburg, in close collaboration with the hospital, and with the backing of Astra Zeneca and Region Västra Götaland.

"The method has major potential and should soon be ready for patients. However, first the application need to be tested on patient material in clinical studies, there really is no way around that," says Göran Landberg, professor and director of the Wallenberg Center, who has the task of bringing research and clinical work together.

"We work together closely both at the hospital and the university, and with Astra Zeneca. These efforts are completely in line with our ambitions," says Göran Landberg.

Treatment Customized More Effectively

Screening of at-risk groups for certain types of cancer, leading to earlier diagnosis, is being described as an area with major potential, both with regard to saving lives and saving money within healthcare. No tissue samples are needed for the , and the tumor does not even need to be located.

It can also be used in the calibration of chemotherapy treatments, and help to avoid problematic under- and overdosage. It can also be used to discover whether a patient is becoming resistant to a certain cancer drug, according to Anders Ståhlberg.

"There is a great need for something like this in this area. After all, targeted treatments work well for some at the moment, but not others. We hope to be able to find out how well a is going, detect relapses at an early stage and improve our options with regard to changing treatments," he says.

Explore further: Researchers use math to develop personalized chemo treatments

Related Stories

Detecting early onset of metastatic disease using FAST disc

February 7, 2017

A new research, affiliated with UNIST has been highlighted on the front cover of the January 2017 issue of the prestigious journal Analytical Chemistry. The key finding of this study is the development of a new technique ...

Recommended for you

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.