An MRI result with color gradations shows smaller metastases that current clinical scans might miss.
A new method to detect cancer in its early stages using a targeted MRI contrast agent that binds to proteins has been identified by a team of researchers led by Georgia State University Regents’ Professor Jenny Yang.
In their study, published in the journal Science Advances, Yang and her colleagues at Georgia State and Emory University describe a newly identified biomarker for detection of liver metastases. With current tests like biopsies, cancer in the liver is often detected in advanced stages, which can limit treatment options and lower overall survival rates. The discovery could have wide-ranging impacts, including more effective diagnosis and precision treatment, and less risk to patients.
“This is a game changer. It has the possibility to have many more applications, really for any type of cancer,” said Yang. “We are already applying it to 10 different types of cancer in the lab.”
The researchers, whose work is funded by the National Cancer Institute, developed an agent that can target certain receptors — in this case, chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4). The receptor is overexpressed in common metastasis organs, such as the liver, among people who have cancer.
The CXCR4 targeted protein-based MRI contrast agent is expected to overcome major barriers in early diagnosis by showing even tiny instances of cancer cells on multi-color scans called precision MRI (pMRI), a new imaging methodology.
Using MRI technology, contrast agents carry the element gadolinium to enhance the images. During her previous work analyzing calcium, Yang decided to test how a metal, like gadolinium, would interact with protein. The protein wraps around the element and carries it to the site for imaging. Yang’s team found that protein design is much more effective in targeting the signs of disease.
“Currently, it is difficult to see early stages of disease in the liver, even in invasive biopsy,” said Yang. “Diagnostic testing using this contrast agent can not only identify the presence of disease but differentiate the stages of disease with high sensitivity and accuracy. That’s the beauty of this work.”
The findings are so promising, the targeted protein contrast agent is now being fast-tracked by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the first step toward clinical trials to gauge its efficacy in humans.
“We have already met with the FDA, so we have a blueprint,” said Yang. “We hope within 18 months to two years we can conduct our first clinical trials in patents.”
Yang, who is also the associate director of the Center for Diagnostics and Therapeutics, holds 17 U.S. and 18 foreign patents in protein engineering. She recently became the university’s first professor to be awarded a fellowship by the National Academy of Inventors. Her start-up company InLighta Biosciences has been a key channel to allow her to compete for important funding and bring new discoveries to the marketplace.
The research builds on a 2019 study published in the journal Nature Communications, in which Yang’s team identified the first early detection of liver fibrosis using a collagen-targeted protein contrast agent. Combined, these studies represent the work of more than a dozen scientists from universities across the U.S., and their discoveries could help transform a $300 million industry that has seen few advances in the past several decades.
“We have been using the same contrast agents for 30 years with few breakthroughs,” said Yang. “I think this is my biggest scientific contribution. And I hope there are many more to come.”
The Latest Updates from Bing News & Google News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Detecting early-stage cancer
- New Era in Prostate Cancer Diagnosison February 28, 2021 at 2:49 am
Millions of men worldwide are fighting prostate cancer today. Imaging devices vital to getting ahead in the fight against cancer ...
- Don't Let the COVID-19 Pandemic Stall Your Colorectal Cancer Screeningon February 25, 2021 at 5:27 am
Don't Let the COVID-19 Pandemic Stall Your Colorectal Cancer ScreeningPR NewswireATLANTA, Feb. 25, 2021American Cancer Society urges people to talk to their doctor about getting back to ...
- AI and Smartphones Are Improving Early Cancer Detectionon February 24, 2021 at 5:09 pm
AI can greatly improve the accuracy of cancer detection from MRI, X-ray and other medical imaging. Approximately 25% of cases of lung cancer diagnosis are missed when doctors check chest x-rays. New ...
- New way to detect immune overreaction in cancer treatment and COVID–19on February 22, 2021 at 3:13 am
In a new study, researchers developed an “immuno-storm chip” that could diagnose cancer and COVID-19 patients at risk of a potentially lethal reaction. The chip is designed to determine which patients ...
- S.C. to become hub for preventative cancer testingon February 19, 2021 at 8:52 am
Starting this March, a South Carolina lab will become ground zero for a preventative test that can detect cancer-causing mutations, risks or tumors in advance through a quick blood sample taken at ...
Go deeper with Google Headlines on:
Detecting early-stage cancer
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- Research shows early detection of colon cancer possibleon February 26, 2021 at 7:23 pm
GUWAHATI: Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati (IIT-G), and Cotton University (CU) have achieved a major breakthrough by developing an automated system to detect colorectal ...
- My prostate cancer journey: Testosterone reduction, mini-radiation treatments, embedded radioactive seeds and lots of difficult side effectson February 26, 2021 at 3:49 pm
The year-long treatment’s effects made many things harder. And those seeds mean I might set off radiation detectors at borders and I can’t let my grandkids sit on my lap.
- Retroviral integrations contribute to elevated host cancer rates during germline invasionon February 26, 2021 at 3:01 am
Koalas are susceptible to neoplasms, which are related to infection with the Koala retrovirus. Here, the authors use DNA sequencing to show that the retroviral insertion sites cluster near known ...
- Promising research could bring early detection for ovarian canceron February 25, 2021 at 6:05 pm
It's a cancer that's known as the "silent killer" because there's no early warning system, but promising new research could be the difference between life or death for those diagnosed with ovarian ...
- Using artificial intelligence to hunt for breast canceron February 25, 2021 at 4:00 pm
Endocrine disruptors (EDs) are hormone-like substances that can have undesirable effects on health. For example, chemicals can increase the risk of breast cancer if they act in a manner similar to the ...