A simple blood test which detects five of the most deadly types of cancer is being developed by scientists. Researchers at the National Human Genome Research Institute in the US have discovered that when breast, bowel, lung, womb or stomach cancer is present in the body, one particular gene changes its chemical signature. The scientists think that change occurs when the body starts to lose the fight against the disease. British charities said it could work like a ‘warning klaxon,’ sounding the alarm that cancer is present, at a time when treatments are likely to be most effective.
The crucial signature was linked to a gene called ZNF154. Researchers found that when a tumour was present, the gene showed increased signs of ‘methylation’ – a biological process which tells genes to switch to the ‘off’ position.
“Finding a distinctive methylation-based signature is like looking for a spruce tree in a pine forest,” said Dr Laura Elnitski, a computational biologist in the Intramural Research Program at National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). FULL REPORT