Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT
Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

Simple blood test will detect cancer

Researchers at Lund University have developed a test using a simple blood sample that can show if a person has cancer in the pancreas.

Pancreatic cancer is particularly difficult to treat. The test can help discover the disease at an earlier stage, so that treatment can begin sooner.

"It would dramatically increase the possibility for clinics to save these patients, from a few percent up to 70 percent all being well," professor Christer Wingren, at the department for immunotechnology at the university tells Swedish Radio News.

Two people in Sweden are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every day. It is not the most common form of cancer, but it is one of the most fatal. Almost all people who have received the diagnosis will die and fewer than two percent are still alive five years after the diagnosis.

The researchers at Lund University have identified what are known as biomarkers in the blood, which show if a person has cancer in their pancreas. Simply put, biomarkers can be seen as flags that will signal that not all is well, and certain flags can be tied to certain diseases. The research has been carried out in the borderland between medicine and technology.

"The technology known as antibody-based matrix focuses on looking for biomarkers, or flags, that can tell if you have a certain disease or not," says Christer Wingren.

The kind of matrix used to analyse the blood samples is no larger than the nail of a little finger, but it can detect up to 2000 biomarkers at a time.

Today, when pancreatic cancer is discovered it is often to late to save the patient's life.

"The importance that this kind of test could have in terms of earlier diagnosis, for these patients and for society is enormous," says Christer Wingren.

He estimates that the finished test could be out on the market in two years' time, and it will be mainly known risk groups that primarily will be tested.

According to Wingren the technology could also work just as well in detecting other forms of cancer and the team in Lund is currently working to identify risk groups for prostate cancer and investigating the biomarkers that show the risk of breast cancer relapse.

Christer Wingren believes this technology will have great importance in the future care for cancer patients.

"Many more patients will be cured, and even if they are not cured, the care will be better and the time that the patients have left to live will be better, and that is where a lot of progress will be made in the coming years," Winberg said.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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