A simple blood test might successfully predict the occurrence of cancer several years before the disease is actually diagnosed.
According to a study, conducted recently by the Harvard University and Northwestern Medicine, scientists have come to know about a unique pattern in the altering lengths of the telomeres; this pattern might actually be a biomarker for predicting cancer years before the deadly disease develops. For those who don’t know: the term “telomeres” is used for the protective end caps of DNA strands.
This study is the first one to track the changes taking place in the telomeres of individuals developing cancer constantly for years. You can read the entire study in the famous science journal EbioMedicine.
Dr. Lifang Hou, the study’s lead author, said that comprehending this particular pattern of growth in telomeres might mean that the pattern might now play the role of a predictive biomarker for cancer.
He added that as he and his team have identified a strong link between the patterns across different varieties of cancer, he feels that right kind of testing can allow using these patterns for diagnosing different cancer types. Here it must be mentioned that Dr. Hou teaches preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Since a long time, scientists have been working for comprehending the actual relation between telomeres, which are basically markers of cancer development and our biological age. To date, however, no research team has managed to come up with any proper conclusion.
The new study discussed above can be referred to as the most successful one among all similar studies conducted to date. During the said study, researchers analyzed measurements of telomeres of as many as 792 individuals over a long period of 13 years.
Out of these 792 participants, 135 eventually got diagnosed with cancers of different types. Some of the cancer types these people were diagnosed with include skin cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, leukemia and more.
During the study, the scientists came to know that telomeres of individuals who are developing cancer age more quickly; this aging is indicated by a significantly rapid decrease in the length of the telomeres.
In the 135 people diagnosed with cancer during the course of this study, the telomeres were found to be 15 years older compared to the telomeres of people who were not getting the deadly ailment. The study also revealed that the rapid aging of telomeres stop 3 to 4 years before someone gets cancer.