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Sugar test can reduce false-positive cancer diagnosis

Chemists at the University of Copenhagen have developed a method able to halve the number of false-positives ovarian cancer diagnoses.

The method helps distinguish between cancer and otherwise benign conditions and is called glycoprofiling. It has been published in the Journal of Proteome Research, under the title “Microarray Glycoprofiling of CA125 Improves Differential Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer”.

Women with ovarian cancer have an elevated amount of a protein known as CA125 in their blood. Therefore, current tests focus on this protein. Unfortunately, a wide range of other and far more benign conditions also increases CA125 figures. These include benign cysts, infections and even menstruation and pregnancy. Ola Blixt, a chemical glycobiology professor at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen, directs the new diagnostic tests at an entirely different biological molecule, namely a sugar that coats the surface of the CA125 protein. Blixt explains that the presence of this specific sugar is limited to women who really are affected by ovarian cancer.

“All proteins have a type of sugar-coat – small, complicated sugar molecules that reside on a protein’s surface. When cancer is present in the body, we can observe a chemical change in this sugar-coat. It is a very complex phenomenon. Luckily, it is very simple to investigate and determine the presence of this transformed sugar coating,” states Blixt in a press release.

In time, Blixt expects the glycoprofiling method to improve diagnoses for a range of other cancer types.

Source: University of Copenhagen