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Cancer signs could be spotted years before symptoms, says new research institute

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses the work being done at the newly opened Early Cancer Institute at Cambridge University, which is focused on detecting cancer at its earliest stages before symptoms appear. The institute is using innovative approaches like the cytosponge test and analyzing archived blood samples to identify genetic changes that occur years before cancer develops, with the goal of intervening early to prevent or slow the progression of the disease.

🙋 Q&A

[01] The Early Cancer Institute

1. What is the focus of the research at the Early Cancer Institute?

  • The institute is focused on finding ways to detect and tackle tumors before they produce symptoms, by exploiting recent discoveries that many people develop precancerous conditions that lie dormant for long periods.

2. What are some of the innovative approaches being developed at the institute?

  • The cytosponge test, which involves swallowing a sponge on a string that collects cells from the esophagus and can detect a protein found in precancerous cells, providing an early warning of esophageal cancer risk.
  • Analyzing archived blood samples from past ovarian cancer screening programs to identify genetic changes that occur more than a decade before the onset of blood cancers.
  • Developing better biomarkers to pinpoint those with prostate cancer that is likely to progress.

3. What are the key goals of the institute's strategy?

  • Pinpointing those at risk of cancer, such as people with inherited predispositions.
  • Finding ways to reduce cancer risks.
  • Ensuring that early detection and prevention approaches can be widely administered.

[02] Funding and Motivation

1. How was the Early Cancer Institute funded?

  • The institute recently received £11 million from an anonymous donor.
  • It is also set to be renamed the Li Ka-shing Early Cancer Institute after the Hong Kong philanthropist who has supported other Cambridge cancer research.

2. What motivated a woman in her 80s to leave the university £1 million for cancer research?

  • The woman lived until over 100 years old, and the institute wants to understand what factors allowed her to live to such an old age while others develop cancer.
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