MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Prof. Diana Anderson
Established Chair in Biomedical Sciences
The University of Bradford Richmond Road Bradford West Yorkshire
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: I have worked in this field for over 40 years both as a research scientist in industry and as a university-based researcher. It has always been my ambition to develop a relatively simple and affordable test to predict if a person is sensitive to cancer. In fact, in 1974, I was appointed as Head of Mutagenesis Studies at ICI’s Central Toxicology Laboratory in Manchester, UK, and I was looking at developing a short-term test to predict cancer even back then.
Our ‘universal’ cancer test is different from other ‘universal’ tests being developed, because ours is not looking for a specific biomarker or mutation. Ours is a generic test for cancer in an individual, regardless of any underlying mechanism that’s causing their cancer.
It is known that levels of damage to the DNA in the cellular genome can correlate with cancer and this is what we set out to investigate with the Comet assay.
Of the available tests to detect damage to the genome the Comet assay is very straightforward. This assay was primarily developed as a method to measure DNA damage. Briefly, cells are embedded in agarose on a microscope slide and lysed to remove membranes leaving supercoiled DNA loops, breaks in which after alkaline treatment and alkaline electrophoresis move towards a positive charge. The DNA is stained with a fluorescent dye and visualised by fluorescent microscopy. The image is like Haley‘s comet and the greater number of breaks the greater is the migration to the anode and the greater the damage.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: This study was first published as a proof of concept assay in 2014 in 208 individuals. In that study, we showed we could identify which blood cells were from patients with cancer – even those who had yet to be diagnosed – with 93 per cent sensitivity. We’ve now investigated over 900 blood samples and the patterns of response are very similar. This work is reported in FASEB BioAdvances.
Of particular interest to us were the 60 blood samples from colorectal, prostate, breast and lung cancer patients that had inconclusive results. At Bradford, we had scored only around 100 cells per slide, so I asked colleagues from the French microscopy company, IMSTAR, if they would examine the 60 inconclusive slides using their more powerful automated microscope that can count up to 10,000 thousand cells. But by examining just 2.000 cells per slide, they were able to separate all individuals of the cancer group from the healthy control group with confirmed statistical significance. I believe that if we’d used the IMSTAR system with all of the study’s slides, we would have seen an increase in the 93% prediction success we’d previously reported.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: We plan to work with IMSTAR now who will automate the system and take it to market.
If it is successfully marketed, a test using blood as a liquid biopsy should be available to individuals in a year or so to help predict a possible cancer outcome based on an empirical observation which is not dependent on an underlying mechanism.
This means clinicians should be able to ‘rule in or rule out’ cancer to a high degree of sensitivity in patients presenting with symptoms for which a cancer could be one cause. The test could also be used as a screening tool in high risk groups. We could also see this test being used alongside other traditional diagnostics methods.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: Whilst we know the test works, it’s possible that the increased damage that we’re measuring could be a consequence of the disease rather than a predictor of susceptibility to cancer and the only way we can be sure is through further study. However, this knowledge would not improve the predictability of the cancer outcome, so while this does intrigue me, I’m happy to leave this to others to investigate if they wish.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: The intellectual property for this test resides with the University of Bradford and we have recently licensed the test – called TumorScan – to IMSTAR to take it to market.
Using a Modified Lymphocyte Genome Sensitivity (LGS) test or TumorScan test to detect cancer at an early stage in each individual
FASEB BioAdvances First published: 12 October 2018
Diana Anderson, Mojgan Najafzadeh, Andrew Scally, Badie Jacob, John Griffith Rohit Chaha Richard Linforth Michel Soussaline, Francoise Soussaline First Published: 12 October 2018
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