An eight-year study of cancer patients has yielded an important biomarker that can detect if cancer has spread or if it will recur, according to a team at the National Institutes of Health and the University of Hong Kong. Next, they will work to develop a test for the protein CPE-delta N, which ordinarily plays a role in processing insulin and other hormones. It turns out, it does more than that.
"This form is present in large amounts in primary tumors that have spread or metastasized," said Y. Peng Loh of the NIH's National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, in a Reuters story.
"This biomarker may be useful for many types of cancers," she told AFP. "It is very important to know when a cancer is likely to spread. Currently there are no accurate biomarkers that can achieve such predictions and prognosis is determined by staging of the cancer."
If the results are confirmed, patients with high CPE-delta N levels could get extra chemotherapy or radiation to control the risk of spread, Loh told Reuters.