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Urine test could hold key to early cancer diagnosis

Urine samples
Image caption A simple urine test could identify cancers of the gut, stomach and pancreas, researchers say

Cancers of the gut, stomach and pancreas could be detected much sooner with a simple urine test, new research suggests.

Edinburgh University scientists have identified key proteins in the urine of patients with advanced cancers.

The findings could help the detection of these cancers in people who have not yet started to show symptoms.

It would enable patients to be diagnosed much earlier, leading to improved survival rates.

Only about 10% of patients with the cancers, known as cancers of the upper gastrointestinal tract, are still alive five years after diagnosis.

It is because the cancers, which tend to be aggressive, are often diagnosed at an advanced stage.

Dr Holger Husi, of Edinburgh University's tissue injury and repair group, said: "The aim of this work is to enable these cancers to be diagnosed much earlier.

"This would help us to treat the cancer before it has a chance to spread.

"The majority of these cancers are currently diagnosed late where no surgery is possible due to its advanced stage.

"Earlier diagnosis would mean that curative surgery or chemotherapy would be possible for more patients."

Thousands of proteins

The research, published in the journal Proteomics-Clinical Applications, compared urine samples from patients with upper gastrointestinal cancers with urine samples from people who were cancer-free.

Scientists analysed the samples to identify thousands of proteins.

They then identified six particular proteins, which were present in 98% of the cancer cases but absent in almost 90% of samples from patients without cancer.

The researchers then narrowed molecules down to two proteins, S100A6 and S1009, which are most likely to appear in samples from patients with cancer but absent from the other samples.

The scientists now want to discover whether people with early stage cancers, which have not yet been diagnosed, have the same levels of proteins present.

It would involve analysing samples from at least 1,000 volunteers and tracking the participants over a number of years to identify those who were then later diagnosed with upper gastrointestinal cancers.

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