A new screening tool developed by scientists in Denmark may help detect the earliest stages of cancer by taking advantage of the body’s own defenses. The researchers constructed a microarray system that analyzes patients’ blood for a specific class of immune agents called autoantibodies. These are agents that attack the body’s own tissue, targeting what they perceive as “foreign” cells, such as specific molecules on the surface of tumors.
Immune tracer: This image shows the overexpression of cancer-associated glycan structures (green) on proteins in cancer cells. The cells’ nuclei are stained in blue. Credit: Kirstine Lavrsen
The researchers found that, within a limited number of blood samples, the screening test could detect cancer-associated autoantibodies in patients recently diagnosed with prostate, breast, and ovarian cancer. Healthy individuals showed no signs of the immune agents in their blood. Their findings, published in the journal Cancer Research, suggest that autoantibodies may be effective biomarkers for early cancer development.