Stomach or gastric cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the world and the second leading cause of death due to cancer.
“Stomach cancer is typically without symptoms in the early stages so most cancers are not diagnosed until the later stages, and the survival rates are therefore low,” says Associate Professor Peter Hoffmann, project leader and Director of the University’s Adelaide Proteomics Centre.
“Endoscopic investigations are invasive and expensive and most are generally not conducted until the cancer is at an advanced stage.
“A non-invasive, inexpensive screening technique through a simple blood test for the early detection of stomach cancer would make a huge difference in the survival outcomes for people with this disease.”
Published in journal Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, the researchers have identified four new proteins that change in concentration in the blood of stomach cancer patients.
In this latest research, conducted by Dr Julia Humphries who is now at SA Pathology and Dr Megan Penno, they showed differences in the four protein levels between serum samples from 37 gastric cancer patients, including 11 early stage cancer patients, and the controls which included healthy and non-cancerous patients with other gastric disease.
All four proteins – afamin, clusterin, haptoglobin and vitamin D binding protein (VDBP) – were individually superior to a current clinical marker CA72-4 in discriminating stomach cancer from healthy controls.
“Using the four markers together produces high levels of selectivity and sensitivity in detecting stomach cancer,” says Associate Professor Hoffmann.
The biomarkers are subject to a PCT (Provisional Cooperation Treaty) patent and commercial partners are being sought.
The research has been funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, and is in collaboration with Associate Professor Matthias Ernst of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.