Scientists Search about the Root of Diseases

Monday, October 21, 2019 - 15:27

Scientists are making attempts to search for the earliest signs of cancer in a bid to detect and treat the disease before it emerges.

Cancer Research UK in cooperation with the Universities of Cambridge, Manchester, University College London, and Stanford and Oregon in the US, to share ideas, technology and expertise in this area, BBC reports.

Together, the scientists are aiming to develop less invasive tests, such as blood, breath and urine tests, for monitoring high-risk patients, improve imaging techniques for detecting cancer early and look for virtually undetectable signs of the disease.

"The fundamental problem is that we never get to see a cancer being born in a human being," says Dr David Crosby, head of early detection research at Cancer Research UK.

So the cancer researchers say they must be more precise, also looking at the genes people are born with and the environment they grow up in, to work out an individual's unique personal risk of different cancers.

Dr. Crosby said the collaboration would "induce a sea-change in our health systems, shifting it from expensive firefighting of late-stage disease, to being able to intervene at its earliest point and deliver rapid, cost-effective treatment".

Prof Mark Emberton, from UCL, said the growth of imaging, such as MRI, was a "silent revolution" which could replace needles, used in biopsies, in the diagnosis of prostate cancer.

"Imaging only sees the aggressive cells, it overlooks the stuff you don't want to find and addresses over-diagnosis," he said, but he warned it was expensive and took time, and was "not ready for prime time yet".

Prof Emberton said the next goal was to see which cancers lent themselves to this type of imaging.

At the University of Cambridge, Prof Rebecca Fitzgerald is developing an advanced endoscope to detect pre-cancerous lesions in the food pipe and colon.

She said early detection hadn't been given the attention it deserved, and some tests for cancer could be very simple and inexpensive.

Prof Fitzgerald said she looked forward to working with international colleagues to take ideas "all the way from the bench to the bedside".

Cancer Research UK is investing £40m in the International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection over the next five years, with $20m being contributed by Canary Center at Stanford University and the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute in Oregon.

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