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August 1, 2016
Researchers in the UK have identified 788 biomarkers in blood that could be used to develop an early stage cancer screening test for the general population.
The study, led by the University of Sheffield, UK, is the first to create a comprehensive list of relevant cancer blood biomarkers that have been researched in the last five years. The study also groups them by molecular function and records the technologies that can be used to detect them.
The team – from the UK Universities of Sheffield, Coventry and Warwick – started with over 19,000 scientific studies published over the last five years that investigated blood based biomarkers. Systematic review methods – including ruling out studies in fewer than 50 patients – reduced this to 4,000 studies from which the final biomarker list was compiled.
The work was carried out on behalf of the Early Cancer Detection Consortium, a group of nearly 40 organizations, including universities, hospitals and commercial companies. The Consortium was funded by Cancer Research UK to investigate whether a cost-effective screening test can be used in the general population to identify people with early stage cancers.
The next step will be to look in detail at the research behind each biomarker, to check that it is robust and that the biomarker could feasibly be used as part of a screening test. Biomarkers will also be grouped by cancer type at this stage. The validated biomarkers will then be put through a clinical study, using samples from cancer patients and healthy controls, to check how effectively they identify the presence of cancer.
Finally, those biomarkers which work successfully in the study will be taken forward into a clinical trial, to see if the screening test works in practice and is cost-effective.
The Consortium has set up a company, Pinpoint Cancer Ltd, to take the research forward and is actively seeking investment and funding for the next stages of the project.