How Does Malaria Detect Cancer? Researchers Find New Screening Test

According to a report by Scicasts, a research team in Copenhagen recently discovered a new method for detecting cancer. The new method has the ability to detect a diverse set of cancers in their early stages, making it a powerful tool. The secret is the use of a special protein found in malaria. Keep reading to learn more, or follow the original story here for additional details.

Sticky Solutions

Cancer is estimated to kill about 9 million people each year worldwide. One of the best ways to prevent a cancer death is through early detection. Many cancers, however, are difficult to diagnose in their earliest stages. The new research by the team at University of Copenhagen seeks to change that by using a protein called VAR2CSA which is found in malaria.

The malaria protein is unique in its ability to stick to things. Specifically, the malaria protein excels at sticking to cancer cells. Using the protein, scientists only need a blood sample form a patient to determine the presence of cancerous cells. Furthermore, the new test is not type dependent. It doesn’t search for any one particular type of cancer and can be used to screen for a variety of different tumors.

Putting Cancer to the Test

Researchers quickly began testing the new method. The new technique entered a clinical trial in which it needed to screen patients with pancreatic cancer. Researchers reported they were able to properly detect circulating cancer cells in each patient with pancreatic cancer while detecting none in the control group.

Researchers hope they will be able to further expand the scope of this new method. It could prove useful both in the detection of cancer and in the assessment of cancer. That is to say that for some patients the test will be useful in identifying the cause of their symptoms, while in others it may be useful to determine how aggressive their cancer is or how likely it is to spread. Researchers admit that further testing is necessary to firmly establish correlations, but hopes are high that the new screening will be able to inform cancer treatment in big ways.

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