CANCER-BLOOD-TEST

CANCER-BLOOD-TEST

Researchers are studying whether the presence of certain proteins in the blood could provide signs of the formative stage of a malignancyAs Breast Cancer Awareness Month draws to a close, researchers still struggle against a disease that claims more than 40,000 U.S. lives annually (pdf). Whereas ideas about prevention and treatment may vary from doctor to doctor, early detection is the key to successful treatment—when detected early enough, any cancer has a 90 percent cure rate.

Catching cancer in its early stages is not easy though. Mammographies and other types of imaging tests are hardly foolproof, and neither are painful biopsy procedures, particularly when tumors are small and difficult to find. For these reasons, an interdisciplinary team of geneticists, computer scientists, oncologists and other researchers at The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle are working on a way to detect early-stage cancer that is no more invasive or painful than a simple blood test.

How has the $4.8 million in federal stimulus funding from the National Cancer Institute impacted your research in the past year? What has it enabled you to do that you otherwise would not have been able to do?
The entire biomedical research enterprise is hampered by a lack of methods [assays] for quantifying human proteins. This unmet need slows basic research, development of new drug therapies and development of new diagnostic tests to help us detect or treat diseases. This NCI funding has allowed me to enter into an exciting collaboration with Steve Carr’s lab at the Broad Institute in Boston to do a pilot project testing the feasibility of developing targeted mass spectrometry–based assays to all human proteins, starting with about 1 percent of the basic unmodified human proteome.

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