New screening could detect disease before tumors form.
Promising research underway at the University of Connecticut may soon lead to patients learning they have cancer even before a tumor grows.
Catching cancer early can dramatically improve a patient's prognosis.
Professor James Rusling and his team are studying prostate and oral cancer biomarkers.
Doctors currently screen for single biomarkers in the blood when looking for cancer, but the testing's not that accurate.
Dr. Rusling and his team are looking at using a combination of biomarkers instead.
"It can facilitate new treatments and treatments that can be used to avoid surgery," he explains. "For example, because what biomarker proteins can do is tell if someone has a problem that's going to lead to cancer in the very new future so even before a tumor is evolved."
Dr. Molly Brewer, a gynecological oncologist, treats women with various reproductive cancers.
She says early detection is the most powerful tool in the fight against cancer.
"It's more curable. If you detect a small lesion you can cure it," she says. "If you detect a lesion starting to metastasize your chances of curing it are less."
Additionally, if biomarkers can find cancers early there will be less patients needing treatments such as chemo and radiation.
Dr. Rusling says the new tests could be available within five to ten years if his research is successful.