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Scientist’s cancer test breakthrough

Researchers at the University of Oxford have used molecular biology to devise a “simple, cheap and reliable” test for a rare cancer.

Hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell cancer (HLRCC), a rare disorder that affects young people causes the development of painful tumours in the skin (and in the uterus for females).

Up to one in six people who have the condition will go on to develop an aggressive kidney cancer.

The test, which takes less than two hours, involves screening tumour samples for a particular protein modification unique to this type of cancer.

Oxford researchers teamed with the University of South Carolina, and were led by Dr. Patrick Pollard.

He explained, ‘Cancer can be caused by many different risk factors, but if we can pinpoint rapidly and accurately the particular type of tumour, we can provide more accurate advice to patients and their families, and perhaps diagnose cases at earlier, more treatable, stages.’

Katy Phillips, an undergraduate student at St. John’s College who recently lost her mother to cervical cancer voiced her support in favour of the test. “The development of reliable ways of diagnosing cancer is vital, as my mum was misdiagnosed by the traditional and trusted Pap smear test over 15 years ago. Understanding [cancer’s] make-up makes it far easier to diagnose and treat.”

Dr Lesley Walker, Director of Cancer Information at Cancer Research UK noted the far-reaching implications of this test. ‘Tests like this can also help us to identify other patients with the same mutation, paving the way for the development of targeted treatments for specific groups of patients.

‘This approach is called stratified medicine and many scientists now believe it could revolutionalise cancer treatment in the future.’

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