Friday December 13, 2019

Ultrasound, Blood Test Together May Boost Liver Cancer Detection

Cancer screening guidelines for patients with cirrhosis vary, with some guidelines calling for just imaging and other guidelines calling for both imaging and AFP measurement

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AFP is a plasma protein that is produced in abundance by the liver cells in the foetus. In adults, AFP levels are normally low, but liver cancer can cause AFP levels to rise. Pixabay
AFP is a plasma protein that is produced in abundance by the liver cells in the foetus. In adults, AFP levels are normally low, but liver cancer can cause AFP levels to rise. Pixabay

Earlier detection is important to improving survival of patients with liver cancer, and combining an ultrasound imaging with a blood test can help achieve that, say researchers, including one of Indian-origin.

Using ultrasound and a blood test for high alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) levels together improves detection of early-stage cancer significantly, said the study published in the journal Gastroenterology.

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“Liver cancer screening in patients with chronic liver disease has traditionally been performed using an abdominal ultrasound. While ultrasound is readily available and noninvasive, it misses many cancers when they are small,” said Amit Singal, associate professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre.

Risk factors for this cancer — also known as hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) — include hepatitis C infection, chronic heavy alcohol consumption, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease related to diabetes and obesity.

Symptoms can include upper abdominal pain or swelling, loss of weight or appetite, white chalky stools, and general fatigue, the researchers said. Pixabay
Symptoms can include upper abdominal pain or swelling, loss of weight or appetite, white chalky stools, and general fatigue, the researchers said. Pixabay

“Our study found that adding the blood biomarker alpha-fetoprotein increased detection of early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma from 45 percent with ultrasound alone to 63 percent using the two tests in combination,” Singal said.

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“Our results support a change in clinical practice and the routine use of ultrasound and biomarkers together for liver cancer screening,” Singal said.

The results were based on a meta-analysis of 32 previous studies. Meta-analysis refers to a technique of combining the results of multiple scientific studies.

Next Story

Saliva Test can Detect Oropharyngeal Cancer

Saliva test can detect mouth, throat cancer early

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Saliva test shows promise for earlier and easier detection of mouth and throat cancer. Pixabay

A non-invasive saliva test can detect human papilloma virus-16 — the strain associated with oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) — showing promise for earlier and easier detection of mouth and throat cancer, report researchers.

The novel technique detected OPC in whole saliva in 40 per cent of patients tested and 80 per cent of confirmed OPC patients.

OPC has an approximate incidence of 115,000 cases per year worldwide and is one of the fastest-rising cancers owing to increasing HPV-related incidence, especially in younger patients.

“It is paramount that surveillance methods are developed to improve early detection and outcomes,” said co-lead investigator Tony Jun Huang from Duke University in the US.

Cancers that occur in the back of the mouth and upper throat are often not diagnosed until they become advanced, partly because their location makes them difficult to see during routine clinical exams.

saliva test cancer
Cancers that occur in the back of the mouth and upper throat are often not diagnosed until they become advanced. Pixabay

“The successful detection of HPV from salivary exosomes isolated by our acoustofluidic platform offers distinct advantages, including early detection, risk assessment and screening,” added Dr Huang in a paper published in The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics.

This technique may also help physicians predict which patients will respond well to radiation therapy or achieve longer progression-free survival.

In the study, investigators analyzed saliva samples from 10 patients diagnosed with HPV-OPC using traditional methods.

They found that the technique identified the tumour biomarker in 80 per cent of the cases when coupled with the traditional detection method called droplet digital PCR.

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“The saliva exosome liquid biopsy is an effective early detection and risk assessment approach for OPC,” said co-lead investigator David TW Wong from University of California-Los Angeles.

According to the researchers, this technology can also be used to analyze other biofluids such as blood, urine and plasma. (IANS)