By Joel Lindsey
Researchers at England’s University of Bradford have created a simple blood test that they say could provide a reliable means of detecting a number of different types of cancer.
The new blood test, called the Lymphocyte Genome Sensitivity (LGS) test, gauges the amount of damage ultraviolet light (UVA) inflicts on the DNA of white blood cells. According to the study, the UVA damage inflicted on white blood cells differs depending on whether the patient has cancer, has precancerous conditions, or is healthy.
In particular, the test allowed researchers to observe the movements and patterns of pieces of DNA as they were pulled through an electric field toward the positive end of the field, according to a press release published recently by the university. This movement created comet-like tails behind the moving pieces of DNA, and researchers working on the project found that longer tails indicated more severely damaged DNA.
“White blood cells are part of the body’s natural defense system. We know that they are under stress when they are fighting cancer or other diseases, so I wondered whether anything measureable could be seen if we put them under further stress with UVA light,” said Diana Anderson, a professor in the University of Bradford’s School of Life Sciences and lead researcher on the project. “We found that people with cancer have DNA which is more easily damaged by ultraviolet light than other people, so the test shows the sensitivity to damage of all the DNA — the genome — in a cell.”
In a test of blood samples taken from 208 individuals, researchers report that the LGS test successfully indicated which samples contained DNA that had been most severely damaged by cancer, thereby providing a way for them to accurately detect and diagnose the disease. Researchers said the test was especially effective at detecting the presence of cancer and pre-cancerous conditions from the blood of patients with melanoma, colon cancer, and lung cancer.
“These are early results completed on three different types of cancer and we accept that more research needs to be done; but these results so far are remarkable,” Anderson said in the press release.
Details and results from the research team’s early tests have been published in The FASEB Journal.
“Diagnosing cancer earlier is key to improving the chances of survival, but any new technique must be thoroughly trialled to make sure it is reliable and accurate,” Anthea Martin, Cancer Research UK’s science information manager, said in a news article published by BBC News. “Although this small study is interesting, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about this test and much bigger studies are needed to prove whether it could be useful for diagnosing cancer on a wider scale.”