It is important that cancer is detected early. Recently, researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial Sloan Kettering in the United States discovered that so called extracellular vesicles and particles can be used to identify cancer.
The method involves identifying new protein patterns in these extracellular vesicles. They can be used as a diagnostic tool to detect cancer at a very early stage.
Samples came from people with known cancer and from healthy people. Eighteen different types of cancer were included in the study, including cancers of the breast, colon, pancreas and lung. The analysis detected cancer-related biomarkers in the extracellular vesicles and particles. Using computer analysis, the researchers were able to find protein patterns in the blood samples that matched the specific type of cancer. In 95 percent of the cases, cancer was detected (sensitivity of the test) and the diagnosis was correct in 90 percent of the cases when the test showed the presence of cancer (specificity of the test).
The researchers found that they could detect tumors in the early stages of cancers such as pancreatic cancer and lung cancer. These cancers are rarely detected early, and treating them as early as possible could lead to better outcomes for patients.
Cancer is a systemic disease in which not only the organ where the tumor occurs is affected, but also other parts of the body. Cancer-related extracellular vesicles and particles in the blood can therefore come from the tumor cells, from normal cells in the vicinity of the tumor or from cells in completely different places in the body, especially immune cells.
By looking at extracellular vesicles and particles circulating in the blood, researchers can therefore obtain information from other tissues, in addition to the tumor itself. It can provide valuable information in cases where the disease manifests itself through metastases somewhere in the body, but where the original tumor has not been found. This is the case in about 5 percent of all cancer diagnoses.
More research is needed.
Ayuko Hoshino, Han Sang Kim, Linda Bojmar, Kofi Ennu Gyan et al (117 authors). Extracellular Vesicle and Particle Biomarkers Define Multiple Human Cancers. Cell, online August 13 2020, doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.07.009 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343643318_Extracellular_Vesicle_and_Particle_Biomarkers_Define_Multiple_Human_Cancers