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Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the October 2018 edition of TTAC’s Insiders member newsletter.
Cancer is a word that we hear far too often nowadays. It seems like all of us know someone who has had this dreaded disease, be it a friend, relative, or work colleague.
Incredibly, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2018.1 Over 600,000 people will die from the disease.
The most common cancers are expected to be breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer, followed by melanoma, bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney and renal pelvis cancer, endometrial cancer, leukemia, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, and liver cancer.
Cancer imposes a massive financial burden, with national costs of care estimated to be nearly $150 billion in 2017. Unfortunately, these costs will only grow as Americans age, cancer prevalence increases, and new and more expensive treatments are adopted as standards of care.
What Exactly is Cancer?
Cancer can develop anywhere in the body and can best be understood as the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. Instead of dying as they should, old cells grow out of control and form new, abnormal cells, which accumulate to form a mass of cancerous tissue, known as a tumor.
You see, normal cells have a pre-determined life span. They are programmed to die at the end of their natural life cycle because they have numerous checks and balances in place to stop them from growing uncontrollably. For example, every red blood cell in our body can live for only about 120 days.
Further, normal cells stay where they belong – heart cells stay in the heart, kidney cells in the kidney, and so on.
On the other hand, cancer cells enjoy a nearly unlimited life span, leading to their continuous growth and eventually, overgrowth.
Some cancer cells lack the ability to invade other parts of the body and simply grow where they are. The resulting tumor is known as a benign tumor.
A so-called “malignant tumor” acquires its own blood supply and gains access to nutrients, with the result that healthy tissues near and around the tumor become deprived of nutrition.
Malignant tumors not only interfere with the body’s normal functions, some of their cancer cells can also travel via the blood or lymph, far from their original area of growth, to invade other parts of the body. This process is known as metastasis and is usually fatal for the patient. For example, breast cancer cells often metastasize to the lungs.
Why is Early Cancer Detection Important?
It’s obvious – detecting cancer early, when the tumor is very small in size and contains as few abnormal cells as possible, and before it metastasizes, gives patients and caregivers the best possible chance of beating it.
For instance, Stage 0 ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a non-invasive, very early version of breast cancer in which abnormal cells are present only in the lining of the breast milk duct and nowhere else. Stage 0 DCIS is highly treatable, as long as it isn’t allowed to spread into the surrounding breast tissue.
Generally speaking, the first occurrence of any cancer is easier to manage than when they recur, especially if the cancer has metastasized or migrated to other parts of the body.
Tumors that are larger than 1-2 mm in size are dangerous, because they acquire their own blood supply, giving them access to the bloodstream and the lymphatic system, via which individual cancer cells from the tumor can migrate to other parts of the body.
So, it’s clear – a cancer patient has the best chance of recovery when their disease is detected as early as possible.
How effective are “old-school” methods of cancer detection? Let’s take a quick look.
Old-School Methods of Cancer Detection
These are the most widely used screening test for breast cancer detection.2 However, many independent health experts now believe mammography may not be any more effective than the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening test for prostate cancer. In fact, these two tests appear very similar in their lack of sensitivity, their ability to detect false positives, and their less-than-impressive benefits in terms of the actual reduction in numbers of deaths.
A study that involved 90,000 women and lasted a full 25 years randomly assigned Canadian women aged 40-59 years to have regular mammograms and breast exams by trained nurses or only to have breast exams.3,4 Surprisingly, death rates from breast cancer and from all other causes were the same in women in both groups – suggesting that the existing rationale for mammography screening should be urgently re-examined by policy makers.
Further, an estimated one in five cancers detected with mammography turn out not to be a threat.3,4 Specifically, the risk of having a false positive test within ten mammograms has been estimated to range from 58–77%.5,6
So, not only are mammograms not very sensitive, they also routinely pick up cancers that don’t exist or don’t need to be treated. No wonder the Swiss Medical Board – after conducting a thorough global review of mammography screening studies – recommended in 2014 that no new mammography screening programs be introduced in their country, and that a time limit be placed on already existing programs.7
#2. Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI)
This is a method for detecting breast cancer that uses a radioactive tracer to detect cancer cells, which tend to take up the radioactive substance much more than normal cells do.8
MBI appears to offer an advantage over mammography in detecting breast cancer in women who are at greater risk for the disease and have dense breasts. However, MBI screening involves exposure to a much greater dose of radiation than mammograms.
Also known as thermal imaging, thermography measures variations in skin temperature caused by changes in underlying blood flow.9 It is completely non-invasive, requires no breast compression, and uses no radiation.
Because cancer cells grow and multiply very fast, both metabolism and blood flow are typically higher in and around a tumor than in normal, healthy tissues – and as blood flow increases, local skin temperature also goes up.
Some experts believe thermography can identify a pre-cancerous state or an early tumor that is not yet large enough to be detected by physical examination, mammography, or other types of structural imaging.9 However, the FDA disputes the claim that it can detect breast cancer earlier than a mammogram.10
Currently, the consensus seems to be that the sensitivity of mammography as a detection technique can be significantly improved when combined with thermography.11
#4. Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
Before a PET scan, the patient receives an intravenous (IV) infusion of radioactive glucose. Cancer cells take in and use this radioactive glucose much faster than noncancerous cells. The patient’s body then is scanned, and any cancer cells that may be present light up because they contain radioactivity. If a tumor is large enough, the scan can pinpoint where it is located and whether it has spread to other areas.
However, small tumors under 1 cm in size may not show up on the scans; hence a PET scan is not considered an early detection method. In other words, a negative scan does not necessarily mean absence of cancer.
#5. CAT / CT Scan
This scan, also referred to as computerized axial tomography or simply computerized tomography, uses X-ray radiation to generate very thin cross-sectional images of the inside of the body. A CT scan can help physicians visualize small tumors, which cannot be seen with a plain film X-ray.
Unfortunately, CT scans use very high doses of radiation – in some instances, the equivalent of about 200 chest X-rays! Evidence suggests such a large exposure can itself raise our risk of developing cancer.12
#6. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Usually, a PET scan is combined with a CT scan and MRI, which uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to produce pictures. MRIs provide different information about the possible presence of cancer in the body than a PET scan, X-ray or CT scan.
#7. Ultrasound / Sonogram
An ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to detect tumors in soft areas of the body that don’t show up well on X-rays. Doctors often use them to guide a needle during a biopsy. While this procedure is quick and doesn’t require special preparation, ultrasound images are not as detailed as those from CT or MRI scans and cannot tell whether a tumor is cancer. Its use is also relatively limited, because sound waves can’t travel through the lungs or bones.
The problem with these old-school methods is that by the time a tumor gets large enough to be detected by a mammogram, PET, or CT scan, it is likely to be pea-sized or roughly 8 mm across and contain billions if not trillions of cancer cells, some of which will have already reached an advanced stage, making them difficult to treat.
Obviously, detecting the same tumor earlier when it has fewer cells and in earlier stages will make the situation a lot easier to manage.
So, it makes sense to check for the presence of cancer regularly – especially if you know you’re in a high-risk group for a specific cancer and an early detection test is available – rather than waiting for symptoms to show, by which time the tumor has usually become quite large.
Promisingly, there have been instances of diagnosed cancer, when detected early enough, being reversed by giving the body the right tools to fight it, such as great nutrition, detoxification, and minimizing exposure to toxins and carcinogens.
Let’s take a closer look at 7 relatively new, promising cancer detection methods that have been shown to spot cancer earlier – sometimes much earlier – than the old-school methods, offering patients the hope of quicker recovery and a better life.
How to Detect Cancer: 7 Emerging (& Promising) Methods
#1. CA Profile©
Contact info: American Metabolic Laboratories
1818 Sheridan Street Hollywood, FL 33020
The CA Profile© test claims to be an early screening test for cancer detection as well as cancer progression. Developed by Emil Schandl, PhD, MD, this test has seven components.
According to Dr. Schandl, this test has been confirmed by biopsy in diagnosed cancer cases between 89 to 97% of the time and can detect pre-cancerous conditions as well as brain tumors. However, it cannot pinpoint the location of the cancer or identify its stage.
The seven components of the CA test provide a multifaceted result. If more than one of the seven tests results comes back positive, it is a strong indication that a real problem exists.
However, a final diagnosis must always be made only after carrying out soft tissue pathology.
#2. EarlyCDT® – Lung Cancer & Liver Cancer Tests
Contact info: Oncimmune (USA) LLC
8960 Commerce Drive, Building #6 De Soto, KS 66018
Phone: 888-583-9030 or 913-583-9000
The EarlyCDT® blood test for lung cancer measures a panel of seven so-called “autoantibodies” – which Oncimmune claims can be detected up to four years before a tumor is visible – against specific tumor-associated proteins known as antigens.13
If autoantibody levels are higher than a set threshold, the test is considered to be positive. According to Oncimmune, its test is supported by more than 25 peer-reviewed clinical publications, has been validated on over 120,000 patient samples, and can detect lung cancer at all stages – including the very earliest stage – earlier and with higher specificity than CT scans.
This test is specifically recommended for current and ex-smokers older than 40 who have smoked one pack or more of cigarettes per day, as well as for anyone with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, or a family history of lung cancer in a first degree relative.
However, those with a previous history of cancer, including skin cancer, are not considered to be eligible for this test because lingering antibodies from a previous cancer episode could cause a false positive result.
Test results are classified as either low, moderate, or high.
A low result indicates the lowest chance of getting lung cancer, while a moderate level indicates a greater risk than a low result, but still a lower risk than a high result. Oncimmune reports 98% accuracy for people within the target population who get a high result.
Absence of any detectible antibodies can rule out lung cancer. However, a low result does not mean cancer will not develop in the future. Therefore, regular monitoring is recommended for people in the high-risk groups already mentioned.
Considering that up to 80% of lung cancers are found much too late in the disease process – and only 17% of these patients survive for five years – this is a much-needed screening test for lung cancer. The earlier it is detected, the better for the patient.
Oncimmune also offers a liver cancer test, which has been designed to detect and confirm the presence of liver carcinoma, in combination with imaging in high-risk patients. The EarlyCDT-Liver test measures the levels of a panel of seven autoantibodies against specific tumor-associated antigens. It also measures the levels of alpha fetoprotein (AFP), a protein known to be made by tumors.
Oncimmune claims that their test is very specific and can detect liver cancer with high sensitivity up to 4 years before it is detected by other methods, with similar accuracy as CT, MRI, and ultrasound.14
Once again, test results are classified as either low, moderate, or high.
According to Oncimmune, this test was developed and validated using samples from over 1,500 patients with liver disease as well as healthy controls.
#3. Oncolab, Inc.: The AMAS Test
Contact info: Oncolab, Inc.,
36 The Fenway Boston, MA 02215
Phone: 800-922-8378 and 617-536-0850 Fax: 617-536-0657
The AMAS test is a relatively early cancer detection test offered by Oncolab, based in Boston, MA. It was developed by Samuel Bogoch, MD, PhD – a neurochemist with a PhD in biochemistry from Harvard University – and his wife Elenore Bogoch, MD, DMD.15
AMAS stands for “anti-malignin antibody in serum”. Patented and Medicare approved, this test measures the levels of a protein in blood known as the anti-malignin antibody, whose levels rise – regardless of the type of cancer or where it is located – during the early part of cancer growth when cancer cells are growing and multiplying rapidly.
However, this test cannot identify what type of cancer it is or where it is located. Also, it is presently unclear exactly how many cancer cells need to be present in the body before they can be detected with the AMAS test.
Still, the AMAS test is considered to be a useful tool to monitor patients who are at a high risk for cancer as well as for follow-up purposes in patients already diagnosed and/or treated for cancer. Promisingly, test results have been shown to be elevated up to 2 years before clinical detection of cancer.
However, the AMAS test is also considered somewhat controversial because a low AMA level can either indicate a lack of cancer, advanced and terminal cancer, as well as a successfully treated cancer with no further evidence of disease. Hence, a competent physician who understands the test well must be consulted to identify a patient’s exact clinical status and differentiate between these states.
On the positive side, AMA levels have been found to be normal in up to 96% of cancer patients who no longer have disease.
Oncolab claims that for tests shipped back to them overnight, false positives are 5% and false negatives 7%. Anti-malignin antibody is elevated in 93 to 100% of cases in which active, non-terminal malignancy is the clinical diagnosis.
Further, Oncolab claims that the AMAS test is 99% specific and 95% sensitive – and that in studies of more than 8,000 breast cancer patients and controls, it was 95% accurate.
#4. Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) Test
Contact info: Navarro Medical Clinic Efren Navarro,
MD 3553 Sining Street Morningside Terrace Santa Mesa,
Manila 1016 Philippines
This test was developed in the late 50s by Dr. Manuel D. Navarro, who claimed that hCG is secreted, or released, by all types of cancer – and that this test can detect the presence of cancer cells in the body well before any obvious signs or symptoms develop.
The hCG test is based on the theory that, just as cells in a growing fetus do not “play by the rules” during pregnancy, cancer cells also do not play by the rules – and that both secrete the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Urine is the preferred specimen for this test.
Therefore, the level of hCG found in the urine is said to be directly related to the extent of cancer present in the body – assuming the person is not pregnant, of course.
Indeed, in 32 proven cancer cases, the test gave 31 positive results using urine.
The hCG test claims to detect brain cancer nearly 2.5 years before symptoms appear – and skin cancer 2 years, bone cancer 1 year, and metastasis from breast cancer 2 years before symptoms appear.
This test is affordable, non-invasive, and can easily be done in the privacy of one’s home. However, it cannot identify the organ or site of the cancer, or its stage. Further, substances such as thyroid hormones, steroid compounds, female hormone supplements, and vitamin D can interfere with the test results – so they must not be consumed for 3 days prior to testing.
#5. Biocept, Inc.: Liquid Biopsy and Cancer Biomarkers
Contact info: Biocept, Inc. 5810 Nancy Ridge Dr. San Diego, CA 92121
Biocept offers a simple, non-invasive “liquid biopsy” that can be performed before, during, and after cancer therapy. A simple blood draw replaces the invasive procedure that would normally be used to remove a piece of tumor tissue or a sample of cancer cells from the body for analysis in a laboratory. There is no exposure to radiation.
When any cancer metastasizes or spreads, pieces of DNA and abnormal cancer cells enter the bloodstream. Liquid biopsies are typically used to identify biological markers or “biomarkers” in circulating tumor DNA or on circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the blood that have separated from the main tumor.
A physician can use the results of a liquid biopsy to identify cancer early, customize treatment plans for each patient, evaluate how well treatment is working, and detect any possible relapses. Currently, Biocept claim to be able to detect the exact number of CTCs in blood, along with their specific genetic characteristics in cases of breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, melanoma, and stomach cancer.
Additionally, the Biocept test also detects a panel of biomarkers, which are typical of specific types of cancer and which can indicate whether a patient is a suitable candidate for targeted therapies.
In summary, the Biocept test is a useful and sensitive tool for detecting multiple types of cancer relatively early and very easily, helping physicians understand an individual patient’s disease and develop a personalized treatment plan.
However, this test only works if solid tumors are already present, so it’s debatable how early it detects cancer. Also, false negatives have been reported with this test, so it’s important to confirm negative results with further testing.
#6. Cologuard® Stool DNA Home Screening Kit
Exact Sciences Corp.
Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women in the U.S. Unfortunately, most cases are not found early or before it has spread beyond the colon or rectum.
Unfortunately, once colon cancer metastasizes, it is fatal for approximately 87% of patients in five years. Therefore, early screening for colon cancer is critical.
Cologuard®, approved by the FDA in 2014, requires a prescription, looks for blood in the stool and altered DNA, and can be done in the privacy of your home. This test includes a protein biomarker and no less than 9 distinct DNA biomarkers.
The wall of the colon sheds cells daily. Cologuard detects altered DNA from abnormal cells which may be associated with cancer or pre-cancer. The test result is reported as either “positive” or “negative.” Any positive result should always be followed by a diagnostic colonoscopy.
In a 10,000-patient clinical study, Cologuard found 92% of colon cancers and 42% of advanced adenomas with 87% specificity, although false positives and false negatives were also seen to occur.
#7. Research Genetic Cancer Center (RGCC)
Research Genetic Cancer Center, R.G.C.C., U.S.A., LLC
Branch office for the United States, North America, Canada
3105 Main Street Rowlett, TX 75088
Research Genetic Cancer Center (RGCC) specializes in cancer genetics and offers multiple tests for measuring the levels of circulating tumor cell (CTC) counts. CTCs are cancer cells that have separated from the primary tumor and entered the blood or lymphatic system.
Even though CTCs are relatively rare, they are considered dangerous because they can lead to deadly metastatic cancers, so detecting and isolating them is a high priority.
The RGCC lab claims to have established a new method that offers precise and accurate detection and isolation of CTCs in blood with 86.6% sensitivity and 83.3% specificity among different types of cancer.
These tests can detect and diagnose new cancers years before they would otherwise be identified. They can also help to monitor existing cancers
RGCC can also provide information about the risk of a current or previous cancer recurring, thereby helping the patient and their caregiver develop a personalized treatment plan to ensure the best possible outcome.
Further, the lab also evaluates up to 74 tumor-related genes to predict outcomes of treatments and prognosis.
In summary, the RGCC lab can detect and diagnose new cancers; provide a count of CTCs in blood, indicating tumor burden; pinpoint the tumor’s main location; and last but not least, identify chemotherapy drugs and natural substances that have the most effective kill rate for a person’s individual cancer cells.
If the submitted blood sample is negative for CTCs, no further testing needs to be done since no cancers cells were detected.
Old-school methods detect tumors when they contain billions and trillions of cancer cells. Detecting cancer earlier by going for regular checkups for the presence of cancer, especially if you’re in a high-risk group, is now possible thanks to the many exciting developments in cancer detection.
However, the 7 new and exciting detection methods and the companies that offer them that are described in this article are only part of the story.
If you or someone you know is at risk for or has been diagnosed with a particular type of cancer, it would be a good idea to do your own research and find out whether any organization exists that offers a specialized, early detection method for that form of cancer.
Further, please note that the availability of the tests mentioned in this article may vary depending on your location, your insurance plan, and FDA approval as well as other legal circumstances.
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An estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2018.
National costs of care were estimated to be nearly $150 billion in 2017.
Detecting cancer early gives patients and caregivers the best possible chance of beating it.
Old-School Methods of Cancer Detection:
- Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI)
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
- CAT / CT Scan
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Ultrasound / Sonogram
7 Emerging (& Promising) Cancer Detection Methods:
- CA Profile©
- EarlyCDT® – Lung Cancer & Liver Cancer Tests
- Oncolab, Inc.: The AMAS Test
- Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) Test
- Biocept, Inc.: Liquid Biopsy and Cancer Biomarkers
- Cologuard® Stool DNA Home Screening Kit
- Research Genetic Cancer Center (RGCC)