Early and accurate detection of cancer is critical for successful cancer therapies. In most cases, a tissue biopsy is the initial means of making a diagnosis after some form of cancer screening has come up with a positive result. However, tumor antigen-specific autoantibodies – antibodies produced by the immune system that are directed against one or more of the individual’s own proteins – are known to appear months even years before clinical diagnosis of cancer, and autoantibodies have been found in many types of cancer.
With increasing accuracy, nanosensor platforms for detecting cancer biomarkers are becoming viable complements to invasive biopsies of metastatic tumors (although, for the time being, it still appears likely that biopsies will have to be used for a final diagnosis). Unfortunately, despite recent advances in molecular diagnostics, non-invasive screening test for early-stage detection of most cancer types are almost non-existent.
“Most studies are attempting to identify tumor-specific antigens and detect antibodies that are specific to individual tumor-associated antigens,” Qun Huo, an Associate Professor in the NanoScience Technology Center at the University of Central Florida, explains to Nanowerk. “Different from these approaches, the novel nanoparticle test that we developed detects an overall increase of human immunoglobulin G (IgG), including the tumor-specific autoantibodies, adsorbed to a gold nanoparticle surface.”
“On one hand, this test may not be able to identify the specific type of cancer; on the other hand, this test may potentially be able to detect early stage tumor-induced immune responses associated with a broad spectrum of cancer types, making this test potentially a universal screening test for cancer risk assessment,” she points out.