British scientists have discovered a biological treasure trove of cancer biomarkers in blood that could be used to develop new ways to screen for tumors in early stages.
Researchers from the Universities of Sheffield, Coventry, and Warwick have identified 788 biomarkers from studies conducted over the past five years — compiling a comprehensive list of cancer signatures that could speed diagnosis and treatment.
The research also groups the biomarkers by molecular function and records the technologies that can be used to detect them.
The findings are based on an analysis of more than 19,000 scientific studies of blood-based biomarkers.
"Because of the sheer number of publications in this field, previous reviews have only been able to look at one biomarker or a small group of biomarkers," said lead researcher Dr. Lesley Uttley, from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research.
"Our data mining approach allowed us to take in all relevant research findings from the five-year period, which meant we could map the full range of potential blood-based biomarkers that are particularly relevant for early detection of cancer."
The work was commissioned by the Early Cancer Detection Consortium — a group of nearly 40 organizations, universities, hospitals, and commercial companies — and funded by Cancer Research UK.
The next step will be to subject the most promising biomarkers to clinical studies, involving samples from cancer patients and healthy people, to check how effectively they identify the presence of cancer.
"Our expectation is that, once the validation and clinical studies are completed, we will have a suite of around 50 biomarkers, identified using four different tests, that can go into the clinical trial, " said Ian Cree, ECDC Director and a pathologist at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire. "To complete the validation and the trials will take six to eight years, but in theory, we could have a test ready within three years for use in high risk groups.
"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. Patients would then be referred for more specific tests that could narrow down the tumor type."
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