Cancer signs could be spotted years before symptoms, says new research institute

Health 17:41 31.03.2024

Scientists at a recently opened cancer institute at Cambridge University have begun work that is pinpointing changes in cells many years before they develop into tumours. The research should help design radically new ways to treat cancer, they say, Ednews reports via The Guardian.

The Early Cancer Institute – which has just received £11m from an anonymous donor – is focused on finding ways to tackle tumours before they produce symptoms. The research will exploit recent discoveries which have shown that many people develop precancerous conditions that lie in abeyance for long periods.

“The latency for a cancer to develop can go on for years, sometimes for a decade or two, before the condition abruptly manifests itself to patients,” said Prof Rebecca Fitzgerald, the institute’s director.

“Then doctors find they are struggling to treat a tumour which, by then, has spread through a patient’s body. We need a different approach, one that can detect a person at risk of cancer early on using tests that can be given to large numbers of people.”

One example of this is the cytosponge – a sponge on a string – which has been developed by Fitzgerald and her team. It is swallowed like a pill, expands in the stomach into a sponge and is then pulled up the gullet collecting oesophagus cells on the way. Those cells that contain a protein, called TFF3 – which is found only in precancerous cells – then provide an early warning that a patient is at risk of oesophageal cancer and needs to be monitored. Crucially, this test can be administered simply and on a wide scale.

This contrasts with current approaches to other cancers, added Fitzgerald. “At present, we are detecting many cancers late and are having to come up with medicines, which have become incrementally more expensive. We are often extending life by a few weeks at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds. We need to look at this from a different perspective.”

One approach being taken by the institute – which is to be renamed the Li Ka-shing Early Cancer Institute after the Hong Kong philanthropist who has supported other Cambridge cancer research – focuses on blood samples. Provided by women as part of past screening services for ovarian cancer and kept in special stores, these samples have now been repurposed by the institute. “We have around 200,000 such samples and they are a goldmine,” said Jamie Blundell, a research group leader at the institute.

Using these samples, researchers have identified changes that differentiate those donors who have subsequently been diagnosed with a blood cancer 10 or even 20 years after they provided samples, with those who did not develop such conditions.

“We are finding that there are clear genetic changes in a person’s blood more than a decade before they start to display symptoms of leukaemia,” said Blundell. “That shows there is a long window of opportunity that you could use to intervene and give treatments that will reduce the odds of going on to get cancer.”

Cancers grow in stages and by spotting those with cells that have taken an early step on this ladder, it should be possible to block or hamper further developments. The crucial point is that at this early stage there is time for doctors to take action and avoid them having to deal with a cancer at a late stage when it has spread.

A similar strategy is being taken by Harveer Dev, another group leader, who has investigated men who have had their prostates removed. His team are now developing biomarkers that will provide better ways to pinpoint those who are likely to suffer poor outcomes from prostate cancer, one of the most common tumours in the UK.

“Our pilot data suggests that these tests may be much better than existing PSA tests and will be crucial in spotting those who with prostate cancer that is likely to progress,” said Dev.

Pinpointing those at risk of cancer – for example, people from families who have an inherited predisposition to tumours – will form a key part of the institute’s strategy. In addition, it will focus on finding ways to reduce cancer risks, as well as ensuring treatments can be widely administered.

A woman had, in her 80s, decided to leave the university £1m for cancer research, Fitzgerald said. “However, she lived until she was over 100 and only died recently, so we only just got that donation. We want to understand what makes some live into very old age while others get cancer, so more people can live as long as she did.”

Euronews broadcast interview with President Ilham Aliyev - VIDEO

News line

Kyrgyzstan issues travel advisory for Israel and Lebanon
09:45 25.06.2024
AU mission hands over third military base to Somali forces
09:45 25.06.2024
UN reform needed more than ever, must start with Security Council — Türkiye's mission
UN reform needed more than ever, must start with Security Council — Türkiye's mission
09:25 25.06.2024
US may set up military bases in Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana
09:10 25.06.2024
Ambassador: Opening Baku-Cairo direct flights to contribute to tourism growth
21:00 24.06.2024
Media: EU to approve agreement with Ukraine on security guarantees on June 25
20:30 24.06.2024
The first day of the Cooperation Forum of Azerbaijani NGOs in Zangilan has ended - UPDATED - VIDEO
20:29 24.06.2024
Baku, Cairo enjoy full understanding of all international issues: Azerbaijan ambassador
Baku, Cairo enjoy full understanding of all international issues: Azerbaijan ambassador
20:23 24.06.2024
Ambassador: Azerbaijan expects increase in trade turnover with Egypt by 2024-end
20:00 24.06.2024
Nine may be trapped in burning building in Moscow
Nine may be trapped in burning building in Moscow
19:30 24.06.2024
Death toll in attacks on Gaza surpasses 37,600, Palestine health ministry says
19:00 24.06.2024
Poland to hold joint exercises with France, Germany in 2025
Poland to hold joint exercises with France, Germany in 2025
18:30 24.06.2024
China criticizes US for selling arms to Taiwan
China criticizes US for selling arms to Taiwan
18:00 24.06.2024
EU sanctions Russia-linked cyberattack actors
EU sanctions Russia-linked cyberattack actors
17:30 24.06.2024
Israel reportedly warns Hezbollah against attack on it
17:15 24.06.2024
China: US should stop weaponizing economic issues
China: US should stop weaponizing economic issues
16:52 24.06.2024
Qaiser Nawab Expresses Heartfelt Condolences for Fallen Police Officers in Azerbaijan
16:32 24.06.2024
Poland greatly reduces issuance of visas
Poland greatly reduces issuance of visas
16:30 24.06.2024
Armed man surrenders after mall shooting in Russia's Rostov
16:12 24.06.2024
Umud Mirzayev, President of IEPF: "We must organize systematically and work harder to increase the number of our NGOs."
15:52 24.06.2024
Azerbaijan extends special COVID-19 quarantine
Azerbaijan extends special COVID-19 quarantine
15:41 24.06.2024
Armenia and Georgia to set up working group to deepen cooperation in tourism
Armenia and Georgia to set up working group to deepen cooperation in tourism
15:26 24.06.2024
COP29 presidency taking part in climate week in London
14:55 24.06.2024
Armenian Administrative Court grinds to a halt as staff strike over low wages
Armenian Administrative Court grinds to a halt as staff strike over low wages
14:40 24.06.2024
ANAMA unveils number of landmines found in liberated territories last week
ANAMA unveils number of landmines found in liberated territories last week
14:22 24.06.2024
Deadly blaze engulfs South Korean plant, claiming over 20 lives
14:12 24.06.2024
Azerbaijani Prosecutor General: Criminal case related to separatists will be sent to court soon
Azerbaijani Prosecutor General: Criminal case related to separatists will be sent to court soon
13:52 24.06.2024
Ban on transit of Russian LNG through EU ports to come into force in 9 months
Ban on transit of Russian LNG through EU ports to come into force in 9 months
13:37 24.06.2024
Azerbaijan weather forecast for June 25
Azerbaijan weather forecast for June 25
13:22 24.06.2024
Fire protection team leaders hold training-methodical session - VİDEO
Fire protection team leaders hold training-methodical session - VİDEO
12:50 24.06.2024
US Senator warns of sanctions over Georgia's ‘Foreign Agents Law’
US Senator warns of sanctions over Georgia's ‘Foreign Agents Law’
12:33 24.06.2024
Dagestan terror attack claims 19 lives, including 15 law enforcement officers
12:14 24.06.2024
China’s Legal Treatise and Taiwan
12:10 24.06.2024
Clashes between protesters and police reignite in New Caledonia
Clashes between protesters and police reignite in New Caledonia
11:47 24.06.2024
President Ilham Aliyev offers condolences to head of Dagestan
11:33 24.06.2024
Kyrgyzstan President set to visit Belgium
Kyrgyzstan President set to visit Belgium
10:45 24.06.2024
Counterterrorism operation in Makhachkala and Derbent concludes
10:30 24.06.2024
FAO secures $25M deal to improve food security in Somalia
FAO secures $25M deal to improve food security in Somalia
10:20 24.06.2024
Over 15 police officers killed in Dagestan terror attack
Over 15 police officers killed in Dagestan terror attack
10:07 24.06.2024
US military says it destroyed three Houthi vessels in Red Sea
US military says it destroyed three Houthi vessels in Red Sea
13:58 23.06.2024
Hamısı