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New Technique To Diagnose Cancer At Molecular Level

A new approach to detecting cancer has recently been developed by scientists. This approach could allow doctors to detect cancer cells of many malignancies before// they turn dangerous. The scientists at the University of Florida say that they have applied this technique to detect leukemia cells. They add that this is "the first systematic approach to diagnosing cancer at the molecular level." This could also provide a principle for future cancer probe, targeted drug therapies and reduce side effects from chemotherapy treatments. "We can use this probe to recognize cancer cells," potentially discovering cancer earlier than often occurs today, said Dihua Shangguan, a UF postdoctoral associate in chemistry and the first author on a paper about the approach that appears today in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Contrary to popular perception, pathologists today diagnose the vast majority of cancers based on the shape or other characteristics of tumor tissue or diseased cells, said Ying Li, one of nine UF faculty members and graduate student co-authors of the paper. That's a problem because it often means that cancers may already be advanced when detected. "Normally, definitive diagnosis of cancer requires a visual examination of the tumor, which is an invasive and time-consuming process," explained Weihong Tan, a UF professor of chemistry and lead author of the paper. "Most importantly, this process is not suitable for early detection, when the cancer is at its most treatable." Clinicians can sometimes use antibodies, proteins that recognize and fight bodily intruders, to identify different types of cancer. That's the case, for example, with the prostate-specific antigen test for prostate cancer. Antibodies are preferable to diagnosis by appearance because they are consistent and accurate, but they are only available for a selected few cancers, Li said. Tan, a member of the UF Shands Cancer Center and the UF Gene
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