THE BLOG

The Holy Grail for Early Cancer Diagnosis Takes a Huge Leap Forward

07/06/2013 11:15 BST | Updated 06/08/2013 10:12 BST

The quest for the holy grail for early cancer detection has taken a huge leap forward following a major collaboration between Cancer Research UK, Cancer Research Technology and Abcodia, the biomarker validation company with a focus on cancer screening.

Through Abcodia, CRUK and CRT will be able to access one of the world's largest prospective collections of serum samples available for biomarker research. This collection is derived from the UK Collaborative trial for Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS) run at UCL and contains more than five million serum samples.

What makes this collection so valuable and unique is that the serum samples were taken from healthy people annually, and, in many cases up to 10 years prior to a cancer diagnosis. The collaboration will use these samples to select biomarkers which provide a clear indication of change in the early pre-diagnosis stages of disease.

Detecting cancer earlier will give doctors the best chance to treat cancer effectively, before the disease develops and spreads when it becomes more difficult to treat. Identifying patients at an early stage will also provide the scientific and pharmaceutical communities with the ability to select patients for the development of a new generation of anti-cancer medicines.

They will focus on biomarkers to detect cancers before patients develop symptoms, concentrating on cancers which currently have limited screening tests available, such as non-small cell lung cancer.

Dr Julie Barnes, Abcodia's CEO, said: "We are delighted to be able to work with Cancer Research UK and CRT in this new global venture. The early diagnosis of cancer has never been more important and with the collective expertise that this alliance can bring, we aim to make a real difference in the field of early cancer detection and screening."

Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK's chief executive, added; "We know that for most types of cancer, the earlier we detect them, the greater the chance of being able to treat them effectively and successfully. In addition, treating earlier stage disease is usually associated with fewer side effects from treatment for our patients.

"The scope and scale of this alliance, aimed at developing new tests for a range of cancers at their earliest stage, before symptoms develop, is very exciting. The combination of expertise formed by this partnership provides a great opportunity to accelerate this vital biomarker research, which we hope will help save thousands of lives from cancer."

There is naturally considerable interest in the outcomes of this collaboration which could make cancer a living disease, a chronic disease which can be managed and treated successfully thanks to its early diagnosis.

Watch this space!