May 30, 2024


Proteins in the blood can warn people against cancer more than seven years before it is diagnosed research.

Scientists at the University of Oxford studied blood samples from more than 44,000 people in the UK Biobank, including more than 4,900 people who subsequently had a cancer diagnosis.

They compared the proteins of people who were and were not diagnosed with cancer and identified 618 proteins linked to 19 different types of cancer, including colon, lung, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and liver.

The study is funded by Cancer Research UK and published in Nature Communications, also found 107 proteins associated with cancers more than seven years after the patient’s blood sample was taken, and 182 proteins strongly associated with a cancer diagnosis within three years.

The authors conclude that some of these proteins could be used to detect cancer much earlier and potentially provide new treatment options, although further research is needed.

Dr Keren Papier, a senior nutritional epidemiologist at Oxford Population Healthat the University of Oxford and co-first author of the study, said: “To save more lives from cancer, we need to better understand what happens in the earliest stages of the disease… [and] how the proteins in our blood can affect our risk of cancer. Now we need to study these proteins in depth to see which can be reliably used for prevention.”

A second linked study looked at genetic data from more than 300,000 cancer cases 40 proteins found in the blood which affected someone’s risk of getting nine different types of cancer. Although changing these proteins can increase or decrease the chances of someone developing cancer, in some cases it can lead to unintended side effects, the authors found.

Mark Lawler, the Chair in Translational Cancer Genomics and Professor of Digital Health at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “The data is impressive – finding evidence of cancer before it has manifested clinically provides a critical ‘window of opportunity to treat with a greater chance of success, or more importantly achieving the holy grail of preventing cancer before it can even occur.More work needs to be done, but an important step forward in a disease that affects one in two British citizens during their lives.”

Lawrence Young, a professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, said the findings were another step towards identifying markers of increased cancer risk as well as those that aid early cancer diagnosis. “Determining protein changes that precede the development of cancer is not only important to identify high-risk individuals, but can also provide insight into factors responsible for the cause of cancer.”

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