MONDAY, July 28, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- A possible new biomarker for early cancer detection has been identified by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle.
They found that microRNAs -- which regulate gene expression -- are released by cancer cells and circulate in the blood.
In this study, scientists analyzed blood from mice and humans with advanced prostate cancers and from healthy control groups. By looking at microRNA in the blood, it was possible to identify which individuals had cancer.
"This research shows that microRNAs, which weren't previously thought of as markers of cancer in the blood, are a worthwhile class of molecules to study for the purpose of early cancer detection," study author Dr. Muneesh Tewari said in a Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center news release.
The study was published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"The results presented here establish the foundation and rationale to motivate future global investigations of circulating cancer biomarkers for a variety of common cancers," the study authors wrote.
The next step is to identify specific microRNAs that can signal the presence of a variety of solid tumors at an early stage and to further develop technology to detect the microRNAs in minute quantities, Tewari said.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cancer.