If kidney cancer is diagnosed before it spreads, then doctors have a much better chance of curing it. In fact, 80 percent of kidney cancer patients who get their cancer diagnosed early survive. Unfortunately, most patients don’t find out about their affliction until too late. At Washington University, St. Louis, a group of researchers is working on a more proactive approach to detecting the disease.
“The most common way that we find kidney cancer is as an incidental, fortuitous finding when someone has a CT or MRI scan,” says Evan D. Kharasch, MD, PhD (pictured left, courtesy WUSTL). Unfortunately, these scans are too expensive to use as routine checks for kidney cancer. So Kharasch and his team researched alternative methods to detect the cancer and found a new solution in the form of protein biomarkers.
In the earliest stages of kidney cancer, the body begins producing an abnormally large amount of certain proteins. The WUSTL team identified two of these proteins in particular that, when simultaneously tested for, indicated the presence of kidney cancer with 95 percent accuracy. As if this wasn’t statistically impressive enough, the test also returned no false positives.
Perhaps the most important advantage of the test is that it is easy to perform. The researchers can test for protein biomarkers on a sample of urine for a small fraction of the cost of a CT or MRI scan. The WUSTL team hopes that their research will be used to catch kidney cancer early in much more patients.
“By and large, patients don’t know they have kidney cancer until they get symptoms, such as blood in the urine, a lump or pain in the side or the abdomen, swelling in the ankles or extreme fatigue,” says professor of anesthesiology Jeremiah J. Morrissey (pictured above (right), courtesy WUSTL). “So we’re hoping to use the findings to quickly get a test developed that will identify patients at a time when their cancer can be more easily treated.”
This study was funded by the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Cancer Frontier Fund and The Department of Anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, with additional support from the Bear Cub Fund of Washington University, Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation and Washington University Institute of Clinical and Translational Science, with additional funding from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. For additional information about funding for research at Washington University in St. Louis, read our free WUSTL Funding Statistics Report, available via the link below:
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