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Outside the Lab Screening and monitoring, Point of care testing, Clinical care, Oncology, Genetics and epigenetics, Technology and innovation

Steps Forward in Cancer Screening

Screening Shortages

Cervical cancer screening rates in the US could be far lower than national data suggest (1). A Mayo Clinic study found that fewer than two-thirds of women aged between 30 and 65 were on track with cervical cancer screening in 2016. Even more concerning are the statistics for younger women; just over half of those between 21 and 29 were up-to-date. Combined, the statistics suggest that true figures may be well below the 81 percent screening compliance rate self-reported in the 2015 National Health Interview Survey.

The Eye of the Microneedle

Despite the great diagnostic potential of interstitial fluid, our inability to gather sufficient quantities has hampered its use for clinical analysis – until now. A new technique that uses microneedles to draw relatively large amounts of the fluid opens new doors in the quest for rapid, painless, and minimally invasive draws. These tiny, hollow needles could be effective for rapidly measuring exposure to chemical and biological warfare agents as well as diagnosing disease (2).

Under the Radar

An alarming number of cancer patients have acute or chronic hepatitis B or C that goes undiagnosed, according to research from the SWOG Cancer Research Network. In 3,051 cancer patients tested between 2013 and 2017, 6.5 percent had acute hepatitis B, 0.6 percent had chronic hepatitis B, and 2.4 percent had hepatitis C. Although this reflects infection rates across the general US population, 87.3 percent of those with acute hepatitis B, 42.1 percent with chronic hepatitis B, and 31 percent with hepatitis C were undiagnosed prior to the study screening. The study concludes that community care clinics should universally screen for hepatitis B and C to help cancer patients avoid liver failure, kidney disease, and other complications (3).

Fingertip Diagnostics

An ultrathin, flexible plastic film can act as a highly sensitive sensor of blood flow when attached to a fingertip (4). The wearable medical device is composed of conductive organic molecules and uses infrared detectors to respond to blood flow characteristics within milliseconds. So far, the device has been shown to accurately measure heart rate; however, the development team believe that, with increased sensitivity, it can serve as a pulse oximeter.

Don’t Worry About a Test

Genetic tests for breast cancer are becoming increasingly complex – and multigene panel tests introduce a greater degree of uncertainty when interpreting results. But does this ambiguity cause patients to worry about their risk of cancer? Not according to a new study of patients treated for early-stage breast cancer between 2013 and 2015. Of the 1,063 women asked, 11 percent said that cancer worry had a high impact on their life and 15 percent worried often or almost always. Interestingly, the study found no difference in the amount of worry patients experienced, regardless of whether they received the multigene panel test or an earlier version that only tested for BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (5).

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  1. KL MacLaughlin et al., “Trends over time in Pap and Pap-HPV cotesting for cervical cancer screening”, J Womens Health, [Epub ahead of print] (2019). PMID: 30614380.
  2. PR Miller et al., “Extraction and biomolecular analysis of dermal interstitial fluid collected with hollow microneedles”, Commun Biol, 1, 173 (2018). PMID: 30374463.
  3. SD Ramsey et al., “Prevalence of hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, and HIV infection among patients with newly diagnosed cancer from academic and community oncology practices”, JAMA Oncol, [Epub ahead of print] (2019). PMID: 30653226.
  4. S Park et al., “Ultraflexible near-infrared organic photodetectors for conformal photoplethysmogram sensors”, Adv Mater, [Epub ahead of print] (2018). PMID: 29984437.
  5. SJ Katz et al., “Association of germline genetic test type and results with patient cancer worry after diagnosis of breast cancer”, JCO Precis Oncol, [Epub ahead of print] (2018). PMID: 30656245.

About the Author

Luke Turner

While completing my undergraduate degree in Biology, I soon discovered that my passion and strength was for writing about science rather than working in the lab. My master’s degree in Science Communication allowed me to develop my science writing skills and I was lucky enough to come to Texere Publishing straight from University. Here I am given the opportunity to write about cutting edge research and engage with leading scientists, while also being part of a fantastic team!

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