Cancer blood biomarkers provide results in less than an hour

Waiting days or weeks for cancer test results is tough on patients and delays vital treatment. A test in development at Kansas State University could bring waiting times for detecting early-stage cancer down to less than an hour. Using this simple and quick test to screen people at risk, doctors could begin treatment at the very early stages of the disease, even before the symptoms start. This could potentially save lives and cut the social and medical costs linked with cancer treatment.

The test uses amino-acid coated iron nanoparticles to detect levels of a panel of enzymes in the blood or urine; each cancer has a specific enzyme signature. The initial tests were in non-small cell lung and breast cancer, and showed a 95% success rate in identifying the early stages of the disease, when the cancer is at its most treatable. Pancreatic cancer and triple-negative breast cancer studies are planned later this year.

"Right now the people who could benefit the most are those classified as at-risk for cancer, such as heavy smokers and people who have a family history of cancer," said Deryl Troyer of KSU. The idea is these at-risk groups could go to their physician's office quarterly or once a year, take an easy-to-do, noninvasive test, and be told early on whether cancer has possibly developed."

The test can differentiate between inflammation, infection and early stage cancer, and would be repeated after a short period. If the results were still positive, patients would be referred for diagnostic imaging.

The next step for the team is to create a 5-minute version of the test, and to tweak the system to be able to track responses to drugs, in treatment or in clinical trials.

- read the press release