At a time when the cases of breast cancer are rising unabatedly worldwide, the researchers at Oxford University (Britain) are working on development of a new tool to fight the deadly disease.
A team of scientists at Oxford University are working on developing a simple blood test to find out how the body processes metals. With the proper detection of alterations in the metal zinc inside the human bodies, the blood examination could help in the earlier diagnosis of breast cancer.
The changes detected in the isotopic composition of the zinc seen in the breast tissue could possibly identify a “biomarker,” which is a measurable indicator of unwanted growth in the body, of the early stages of breast cancer.
For the study, the researchers involved ten subjects- five breast cancer patients and five healthy controls – and analyzed zinc in their blood samples.
During the study, the researchers could detect delicate but significant variations in isotopic zinc that result when cancer deviously changes the manner in cells deal with the metal.
Study leader Dr. Fiona Larner, of the Oxford university’s Department of Earth Sciences, said, “It has been known for over a decade that breast cancer tissues contain high concentrations of zinc but the exact molecular mechanisms that might cause this have remained a mystery.”
According to Larner, if the new analysis technique successfully traces the changes in zinc in an individual’s blood then the process could “promise an easily-detectable biomarker of early breast cancer.”
“We are hoping that the study marks the new beginning in the fight against cancer. Understanding how different cancers alter different trace metals within the body could enable us to develop both new diagnostic tools and new treatments that could lead to a ‘two-pronged’ attack on many cancers,” Larner said.
The technique could help in the identification of biomarkers of the first stages of breast cancer much earlier than any overt symptoms appear, the researchers said.
The study’s findings were detailed in the journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, called Metallomics.