Blood Test Detects Cancer, May Predict Spread


A new blood test finds colon, rectal, and stomach cancers early and may be able to predict which cancers are most likely to spread (metastasize).

Higher levels of messenger RNA for the S100A4  gene were found in blood from patients with gastrointestinal cancers than in blood from healthy volunteers.  Blood levels increased as cancer stage increased.  Patients with cancer that had already spread had the highest levels.

Patients whose cancer eventually spread, had higher blood levels of S100A4 mRNA when their blood was first tested, leading to a possible test to predict possible  metastasis.

German scientists collected blood samples from 466 patients with rectal, colon, or gastric cancer during their hospitalization and outpatient care. They also collected blood from 51 healthy volunteers.

They analyzed the blood for the amount of messenger RNA for a gene known to contribute to the presence and spread of gastrointestinal cancers.  They found it in higher levels in the patients with cancer and even higher in those patients who had metastatic cancer.

Professor Ulrike Stein said of the test,

We found that S100A4 mRNA was present at significantly higher levels in the group of cancer patients, no matter whether they had colorectal or gastric cancer, than in the tumour-free control group, and there were yet higher levels in the patients with metastases than in those where the disease had not yet metastasised. More importantly, prospective analysis of the data showed that follow-up patients who later developed metastases showed higher S100A4 levels at initial blood analysis than those whose disease did not metastasise. This means that in future we might be able to identify those patients who are likely to develop metastases.

The Berlin scientists will be following up patients for at least three years to see if the blood test can tell them anything about survival.

Before the test can be used as part of a screening program to find cancers before there are symptoms, it needs to be validated in a larger, prospective clinical trial, according to the research team.

SOURCE: Stein et al., European Journal of Cancer Supplements, Vol. 7, No 3, September 2009, Page 9

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