Urine Test for Cancer in the Works

Upper GI cancers may be detected with a urine test

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

(RxWiki News) Cancers of the stomach, gut and pancreas are usually diagnosed when they've already advanced, making treatment difficult. That could change soon.

University of Edinburgh researchers have identified proteins that show up in the urine of people who have advanced cancers. These findings may lead to a simple urine test that could diagnose cancers of the upper gastrointestinal (GI) earlier - when they are more treatable.

"Urine tests being developed to diagnose upper GI cancers."

Cancers of the gut, stomach and pancreas usually don't cause any symptoms until they have become very hard to treat. The disease is usually so advanced that surgery is not possible. As a result, survival rates for these cancers are low - only 10 percent of people with these cancers are alive five years after diagnosis.

If a urine test that detected this protein could be perfected, patients could be diagnosed earlier so that surgery and chemotherapy could be possible.

That's the aim of the work of the research team led by Dr. Holger Husi, of the University of Edinburgh's Tissue Injury and Repair Group. "This would help us to treat the cancer before it has a chance to spread," he said.

For this study, urine samples from patients with upper gastrointestinal cancers were compared with samples from people who were cancer-free. Analyzing the samples, researchers found six proteins present in 98 percent of the urine from cancer patients.

These proteins were not present in 90 percent of the samples from patients without cancer. Researchers then zeroed in on two proteins – S100A6 and S1009 – which were most likely to appear in the urine of cancer patients.

The next step will be to see if these proteins are present in people with early stage cancers that have not yet been diagnosed. This will be done by tracking at least 1,000 volunteers over a period of years to identify those who develop upper GI cancers.

The research, published in the journal Proteomics-Clinical Applications.

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Review Date: 
June 13, 2011
Last Updated:
June 13, 2011