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Simple test can indicate cervical cancer

Thu, 01/09/2014 - 8:23am

Researchers at the Univ. of Louisville have confirmed that using the heat profile from a person’s blood, called a plasma thermogram, can serve as an indicator for the presence or absence of cervical cancer, including the stage of cancer.

The team, led by Nichola Garbett, PhD, published its findings online in PLOS ONE.

“We’ve been able to demonstrate a more convenient, less intrusive test for detecting and staging cervical cancer,” Garbett said. “Additionally, other research has shown that we’re able to demonstrate if the current treatment is effective so that clinicians will be able to better tailor care for each patient.”

To generate a plasma thermogram, a blood plasma sample is melted, producing a unique signature indicating a person’s health status. This signature represents the major proteins in blood plasma, measured by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). The team has demonstrated that the plasma thermogram profile varies when a person has or doesn’t have the disease. The team believes that molecules associated with the presence of disease, called biomarkers, can affect the thermogram of someone with cervical disease. They used mass spectrometry to show that biomarkers associated with cervical cancer existed in the plasma.

“The key isn’t the actual melting temperature of the thermogram, but the shape of the heat profile,” Garbett said. “We have been able to establish thermograms for a number of diseases. Comparing blood samples of patients who are being screened or treated against those thermograms should enable us to better monitor patients as they are undergoing treatment and follow up. This will be a chance for us to adjust treatments so they are more effective.”

Chaires noted that plasma thermograms have different patterns associated with different demographics, as well as for different diseases. This results in a more thorough application of the test as a person’s thermogram can be compared to specific demographic reference profiles or, even better, to the person’s own profile. Using a person’s unique thermogram would provide the most accurate application of the test which could be used as part of a personalized medicine approach.

Further clinical study could result in the plasma thermogram as a compliment test to the traditional screening method for cervical cancer, the Pap smear and would be less intrusive and more convenient for the patient. Additionally, because the plasma thermogram test could allow treatment effectiveness to be more easily monitored, treatment that was not working could be stopped sooner and replaced with more effective treatment. In summary, the test could result in earlier detection, more effective therapeutic approaches and lowered health care costs for screening and treatment of cervical cancer.

The Univ. of Louisville researchers see great promise for their technique being able to detect and monitor in a range of other cancers and diseases. The test is noninvasive and requires only a simple blood draw. The plasma thermogram test has already been applied to identify multiple cancers, including melanoma, lung, cervical, ovarian, endometrial and uterine cancers, and other diseases, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Lou Gehrig’s disease and Lyme disease. The test has shown great promise as a prognostic indicator of disease, allowing physicians to monitor cancer patients more closely for remission, response to therapy and recurrence.

As a result of the promising research findings, Garbett, Chaires and Jenson have founded a startup company, Louisville Bioscience Inc. (LBIdx), which holds an exclusive license to the Univ. of Louisville’s Plasma Thermogram (pT) technology.

Source: Univ. of Louisville

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