Detecting a Cancer Stealth Bomber

Kidney cancer may be detected early with three biomarkers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Kidney cancer is like a stealth bomber. The hidden enemy can start attacking other organs before it’s even detected. Molecular intelligence may help identify this villain before it becomes deadly.

In a recent study, researchers identified three biomarkers that were extremely accurate in detecting kidney cancer.

And just as important, the markers accurately assessed when the cancer was not present.

"Don’t ignore blood in the urine, call a doctor."

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) accounts for 85 percent of the kidney cancers that will be diagnosed in some 65,000 Americans this year. And, in that time, the disease will take the lives of more than 15,000 people.

Nam Hoon Cho, MD, of the Department of Pathology at Yonsei University Health System in Seoul, Korea, led a team of researchers from Genomine Inc. that developed a new test to detect kidney cancer.

“Renal cell carcinoma, a malignant tumor arising from the kidney, is one of the most difficult forms of cancer to detect and treat properly because it remains silent until disseminating to other organs,” Dr. Choi said in a news release announcing the study results.

“Furthermore, because imaging, which is high-cost, is seldom performed without any specific reasons, developing a blood-tumor biomarker is a great chance to detect the silent killer.”

The test - known as an immunoassay - developed by Cho and colleagues measures the levels of certain molecules – called biomarkers – in a person’s blood.

The three potential biomarkers (indicators of disease) the team identified are nicotinamide N-methyltransferase (NNMT), L-plastin (LCP1) and nonmetastatic cells 1 protein (NM23A).

To test whether these biomarkers accurately predicted RCC, researchers measured levels in blood samples from 189 from people – 102 of whom where healthy and 87 of whom had kidney cancer.

As expected and hoped, the people with kidney cancer had very high levels of these markers. For example, a normal level of NNMT is 68 pg/mL. Kidney cancer patients had measurements of 420 pg/mL.

To test how sensitive the immunoassay was, the researchers looked to see if it could tell the difference between blood samples from healthy individuals and those with kidney cancer.

The test was extremely accurate, correctly classifying 90 percent of the healthy samples and 94.4 percent of samples from kidney cancer patients.

In a blinded test (the researchers didn’t know the status of the samples), the immunoassay again demonstrated accurate results, identifying all of the kidney cancer samples and 67 of the 73 healthy samples.

The authors concluded that additional study is needed based on the results of this research.

Dr. Cho and colleagues are striving to gain US Food and Drug Administration approval of the test.

This study was published March 11 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. The research was supported by a National Research Foundation of Korea grant funded by the MEST and by the Korean Foundation for Cancer Research. No potential conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 11, 2013
Last Updated:
March 12, 2013