Breakthrough: Oxford researchers have developed an imaging probe that provides a possible way to detect multiple cancers weeks before symptoms appear.
Background: The university's Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology and Biology constructed an imaging probe that targets γH2AX (gamma-H2AX), a DNA damage-signaling protein. It's built from an anti-γH2AX antibody designed to target a biomarker, a TAT peptide that penetrates the cell and an imaging agent known as 111In, which is a radioactive biomarker.
Significance: It's a crucial one to spot in cancer diagnosis because its presence marks where both strands of the DNA double helix break down, an early step in a cancer's development. Early tests in mice enabled successful detection of this protein for breast cancer 5 weeks before they actually developed. But the same marker can also be found in lung, skin, kidney and bladder cancer.
Next steps: More research is in the mix. Scientists will pursue larger studies to see if they can successfully use the biomarker to identify many other cancers. But another pursuit is possible here. The research team sees this discovery as potentially offering a new way to both deliver radiotherapy directly to damaged cells and then monitor the effects. The hoped-for scenario: targeting tumors or possibly preventing cancers from even developing.
Test could detect a range of cancers weeks before symptoms