Today’s Solutions: March 03, 2024

Novelna, a biotech company in the United States, announced a revolutionary protein-based test that shows promise as a less intrusive and more effective way to screen for 18 different types of cancer in their early stages. The researchers believe their discovery has the potential to be a medical “game changer.”

The Novelna team emphasizes the drawbacks of conventional screening tests, noting invasiveness, cost, and limited accuracy for early-stage disorders. According to the researchers, their test outperforms existing methods and has “a sensitivity much greater” than the Galleri test now being evaluated in the UK.

Unlike prior attempts that relied on tumor DNA, Novelna’s test focuses on blood proteins, resulting in higher sensitivity and specificity. By analyzing proteins in blood plasma, the researchers were able to distinguish cancer samples from normal ones with great accuracy and even identify distinct forms of cancer.

The researchers underline the significance of their findings, adding, “This could re-shape screening guidelines, making this plasma test a standard part of routine check-ups.” They anticipate a future in which a “cost-effective, highly accurate, multi-cancer screening test” is integrated into population healthcare.

Unveiling gender-specific cancer protein signals

Novelna’s research reveals that cancer protein signals may be gender-specific, paving the way for personalized diagnostic techniques. The study, published in BMJ Oncology, lays the groundwork for a highly accurate multi-cancer screening test that includes all major human organs.

“Our sex-specific localization panels consisted of 150 proteins and were able to identify the tissue of origin of most cancers in more than 80 percent of cases,” the study stated, underlining the possibility for a personalized and precise screening strategy.

The potential of low-level proteins in early detection

After analyzing blood plasma samples from 440 persons diagnosed with 18 different cancers and 44 healthy blood donors, Novelna’s team discovered that low-level proteins are critical in detecting pre-cancerous and early-stage disease before significant harm occurs.

The researchers emphasize the significance of their findings, stating, “This shows the importance of low-level proteins to pick up pre-cancerous and early-stage disease.” However, they acknowledge the need for bigger sample sizes in future studies to support their findings.

Expert opinions and cautionary notes

While experts recognize the protein test’s potential, they also emphasize the need for further research. According to Dr. Mangesh Thorat, who was not involved in the study but is from the Centre for Cancer Prevention at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, “If the assay performance in future, well-designed sequential studies is anywhere close to what this preliminary study suggests, then it could really be a gamechanger.”

Professor Paul Pharoah, a cancer epidemiology expert who was not involved in the study, is cautiously optimistic about the findings, saying, “While the results show some promise, it is far too soon to be confident that this test will turn out to be useful for early cancer detection.”

Novelna’s protein test represents a substantial advancement in cancer diagnosis, providing a viable solution to the limitations of current screening approaches. While cautious optimism surrounds the findings, more research is needed to confirm the test’s usefulness on a larger scale.

Source study: BMJ Oncology—Novel proteomics-based plasma test for early detection of multiple cancers in the general population 


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