Leland Stanford University’s Laboratory for Molecular and Cellular Genomics (LGM) has developed a method for detecting the presence of DNA-based gene variants that may affect a person’s risk of developing cancer.
The method could help in early detection of disease and in screening people at risk.
The results of the study appear in the September 22 issue of the journal Nature.
LGM’s new method uses a technique called immunoassay, which measures the levels of antibodies produced by the immune system.
The new method is based on the discovery that some DNA-encoding variants in a person can change their ability to generate the antibodies.
The immune system, called the CD4+ T-cell response, has been the focus of scientists’ efforts to develop a way to detect these variants.
A person’s CD4 count can indicate their risk of acquiring certain cancers, but there are several genetic variants that can increase this risk.
LVM scientists wanted to identify whether they could detect these genetic variants and then develop a method to measure their effect on a person.
“This is a novel approach to detection,” said study co-author Daniel Kowalczyk, associate professor of pathology and immunology at LGM.
“The antibody levels could help us predict the amount of the mutation that would make a patient more likely to develop cancer.”
Kowolczyk is an associate professor at the Lincoln Technical Institute.
His team developed a way for people to use a handheld device called a spectrophotometer to detect the levels in the blood.
The device, which is inexpensive and easy to carry, can measure a person in two ways: by looking for specific antibodies in the person’s blood and by looking at their genetic variants.
They found that the spectrophobes could detect two variants that increased the risk of cancer by about 20 percent.
The team also found that one variant in a particular variant was associated with an increased risk of leukemia.
“We are really excited about this work because it is a key step in the search for genes that increase a person´s risk of certain cancers,” Kowala said.
“It is a significant advance in the field because it gives us the ability to use this new method to detect variants that might increase a patient’s risk.”
The researchers found that about 20 people in the United States had one of the genetic variants associated with increased risk for cancer.
This was more than the rate of new cases of leukemia among people in other countries, which had been declining in recent years.
The researchers plan to use the results of their work to further test the effectiveness of the new method in different populations, and to develop new strategies to help identify people at high risk.
Kowalyczyk said the findings are important because it could help identify the specific genetic variants needed to protect against certain types of cancer.
“You need a very specific target and a very particular set of genetic variants to see whether these variants are causing cancer,” Kewala said, “but we also need to be able to test them in a population that is really sick.”
The LGM team is using the spectroscopic approach to test people with different levels of genetic variation.
“In this study, we found that some of the variants increased the frequency of the variant we thought was causing the increase in cancer,” said Kowalin, who is also the senior author of the paper.
“But the variation we thought had increased the disease risk was actually decreasing the risk.”
Kowealyczy is the first to be part of a team to use spectroscopy to detect genetic variants in people with a cancer risk of more than 50 percent.
This is the highest cancer risk that the LGM scientists have seen.
This means that it is highly likely that a person who has one of these variants has the same risk of being diagnosed with cancer as someone with another variant, such as an ABO gene.
Because of the high risk of these individuals, many of them die before they can see their doctor.
In addition, some of them may have inherited a variant that was present in their family.
The Lgm scientists hope that the findings will allow them to develop more precise tests to detect mutations that could increase a cancer patient´s chance of developing it.
“Identifying the genetic variant associated with a higher cancer risk might help us better understand the mechanisms that underlie this variation,” Koweal said.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
More information about LGM is available at: http://www.lgm.org/news/