New blood test promises early detection of deadly liver cancer

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Liver cancer is a silent killer that often only shows symptoms when it is too late for effective treatment. Among liver cancers, a subtype called intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (iCCA) is particularly dangerous.

If diagnosed late, patients have only an 8% chance of survival for five years. But if you catch them early, the survival rate increases to 50%. The symptoms of this cancer – such as yellowing of the skin, itchy skin and fatigue – are not unique.

They also occur in other, less serious liver diseases, making it difficult to determine exactly who actually has cancer. That’s why early detection is so important.

The breakthrough: A better way to detect iCCA

Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) have made an exciting discovery that could speed up diagnosis.

Under the direction of Dr. Anand Mehta and graduate student Shaaron Ochoa-Rios, the team has found a specific “biomarker” – a measurable sign of a particular disease – that can indicate the presence of iCCA.

Traditionally, doctors used another biomarker called CA 19-9 to screen for liver cancer. However, this marker also occurs in several other liver diseases and even in various types of cancer.

This means that even after testing positive for CA 19-9, patients would still require further imaging tests such as MRI or CT scans, which are both time-consuming and expensive.

The newly discovered biomarker revolves around a type of sugar called N-glycan, which binds to proteins.

The team found that changes in these sugars were a consistent sign of iCCA, but were not present in healthy tissue or other liver cancers.

Even better, these sugar changes can be detected in blood samples, eliminating the need for invasive biopsies.

What this means for the future

Faster diagnosis and treatment

The new test could help doctors rule out other conditions and identify who actually has iCCA and needs immediate intervention. Faster diagnosis means faster treatment, which is crucial to improving the chances for patients.

A more practical screening method

As modern lifestyles lead to an increase in diseases that increase the risk of liver cancer – such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – the need for a reliable, rapid test is more urgent than ever.

According to Dr. Mehta, nearly 100 million people fall into the high-risk category. It is not feasible to subject all of these people to a series of time-consuming and expensive tests.

A step towards more precise medicine

Understanding how and why these sugar changes occur could open the door to more targeted therapies and treatments.

Further research will focus on identifying the specific proteins involved in these changes, which could further improve the accuracy and effectiveness of the test.

Although it will still take some time for this new biomarker to become a standard test, the researchers are convinced that they are moving in the right direction.

Early detection remains one of the most powerful tools in the fight against cancer, and this discovery could be groundbreaking and make this early diagnosis a reality for more patients.

If you are interested in cancer, please read studies about common anti-inflammatory drugs that can help kill cancer and statins that can starve cancer cells.

For more information about cancer, check out recent studies on these two things that are critical to cancer survival. The results show that common Indian fruits can slow cancer growth.

The research results can be found In Communication on cancer research.

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Laura Coffey

Laura Coffey is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Laura Coffey joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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