October 03, 2010
MicroRNA Testing For Early Bladder Cancer Diagnosis

DENVER Scientists may have discovered a way to diagnose bladder cancer at its earliest and, therefore, most treatable stages by measuring the presence or absence of microRNA using already available laboratory tests.

They found these microRNA fingerprints for bladder cancer in blood, not urine. This suggests the same can be done for other cancers. If so, early stage cancer diagnosis for just about all cancers could some day be done with blood tests for patterns of microRNAs. To state the obvious: The earlier the diagnosis the easier a cancer is to cure. Get it before it metastasizes, remove it, and then avoid losing your hair, pucking up your guts, becoming extremely emaciated, and dying with cancer in your bones that makes the end of your existence total agony.

"Measuring expressions of microRNA in bodily fluid represents a very promising tool with widespread implications for screening," said Liana Adam, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in urology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Only frequent and cheap testing can catch all cancers at an early enough stages. This has important implications for policies governing medical device regulation. In a nutshell: We need to allow the masses to test themselves (a.k.a. Direct To Consumer - DTC).

At an intermediate stage of expense and complexity it should be possible to get your secretions extensively tested at a drug store with sample drop-off at any time the store is open. We need a suite of fairly cheap tests of microRNA and other molecules that are reliable indicators for all the cancers as well as some other diseases.

As medical testing devices get shrunken down into mass produced microfluidic devices and costs drop by orders of magnitude much of that testing capability should move into the home. The goal should be to move toward constant home monitoring. All secretions should be testable once a week or even daily. We need to move beyond the model of visits to doctors' offices for medical testing.

The testing that saves your life has to happen much more often than doctor's office visits would make practical. So we need medical testing to become far more accessible. Plus, in order for it to be done monthly, weekly, or even daily for a large number of cancers and other diseases it has to become orders of magnitude cheaper. Microfluidics and a favorable (i.e. much different) regulatory environment are key to making this happen.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 October 03 09:03 PM  Biotech Assay Tools

DD said at October 5, 2010 2:26 PM:

Yes it's all good BUT...
Early diagnosis will inevitably lead to many false positives. This could land up subjecting folks to treatment when it is not needed. This could get very expensive. Also, since cancer treatments in themselves can be debilitating and mutagenic, this could lead to health problems later on.

Beware the law of unintended consequences..

DocinPA said at October 5, 2010 7:15 PM:

You've also got the problem of how to find these tiny lesions. Whole body CT? MRI? PET? Mucho dinero.

Engineer-Poet said at October 6, 2010 1:24 PM:

Radioactively-labelled antibodies and a gamma camera will tell you where the cancers are.  Then you use immune therapy to kill them.

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