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Conquer Cancer Health News

Antibody test may predict cancers, expert says


WASHINGTON, (Reuters)

An antibody test that looks for the body's immune response to cancer might be a useful way to screen high-risk people for the disease, a review of several experiments shows. Testing for the antibody might also be a good way to monitor the progress of someone being treated for cancer, Dr. Thierry Soussi, of the Institut Curie in Paris, said. A protein known as p53 is strongly linked with cancer. Mutations in the p53 gene that controls production of the protein are believed to be responsible for more than 50 percent of all cases of cancer, including cancers of the lung, colon, esophagus, stomach, breast and some brain cancers. The body's immune system responds, in some degree, to the mutated version of this protein. Doctors do not know why, but they found out years ago it is possible to test for antibodies to the mutated protein. 'The finding of p53 antibodies in the sera (blood) of individuals who are at high risk of cancer, such as exposed workers or heavy smokers, indicates that they have promising potential in the early detection of cancer,' Soussi wrote in the April issue of the journal Cancer Research, published by the American Association for Cancer Research. Soussi reviewed 80 studies involving more than 9,000 patients with a variety of different cancers. He found the antibody test strongly correlated with many cancers, with the exception of glioma, a kind of brain cancer, melanoma, which is a dangerous skin cancer, and testicular cancer. Antibodies are produced by the immune system to flag invaders or mutated cancer cells for destruction. Soussi said scientists do not yet understand why the body recognizes p53, and why it does not recognize the p53 in certain cancers. The mutations can be inherited genetically or can occur through exposure to chemicals, radiation and other damaging events. Soussi said he found only one study that looked at someone considered at high risk of cancer, published in the British Journal of Cancer in 1994. It followed two heavy smokers who tested positive for p53 antibodies. Both got lung cancer -- one died and one had the cancer detected early enough and is still healthy. Soussi concluded that the test would be a good way to monitor patients during therapy. He also noted that in some countries, rates of smoking and pollution, and thus of cancer, are high. 'In developing countries, there is an increased burden of tumors due to carcinogen exposure,' he wrote. 'The use of a low-cost assay for the detection of p53 antibodies could be of public health benefit in such countries.'

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