Researchers developed a new method to diagnose cancer using malaria protein, according to a study published on August 16, 2018.
This study was conducted by the researchers at the University of Copenhagen. This newly discovered method can be used to diagnose a broad range of cancers at its early stages by utilizing a particular malaria protein, which sticks to cancer cells in blood samples. The researchers expect this method to be a useful one in the near future for cancer screenings.
The malaria protein known as VAR2CSA, sticks to cancer cells. Only requirement to identify cancer in people is their blood sample. Professor Ali Salanti said, “We have developed a method where we take a blood sample and with great sensitivity and specificity, we’re able to retrieve the individual cancer cells from the blood. We catch the cancer cells in greater numbers than existing methods, which offers the opportunity to detect cancer earlier and thus improve outcome. You can use this method to diagnose broadly, as it’s not dependent on cancer type. We have already detected various types of cancer cells in blood samples.”
There are various cancer cells in a cancerous tumor, of which some spread by wandering through the tissue and into the blood. These cancer cells in the blood are called circulating tumor cells. These are the cells that researchers retrieve from a blood sample with the help of malaria protein. While developing the new method, ten cancer cells were added to five milliliters of blood by the researchers. Subsequently, nine out of ten cancer cells were retrieved from the blood sample.
Researchers hope that this method will be used in the near future to screen people at high risk of developing cancer. However, they also expect that this method can be used as a biomarker that helps in indicating whether a patient with mostly vague symptoms indeed has cancer or not. This will help the doctors to determine the stage of the disease.