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Possible new assay for cancer.

A biochemist at the University of Tennessee's Center for the Health Sciences in Memphis is developing a pair of general cancer screening tests based on the presence of a biological market that he has identified in the blood sera of humans and animals. edsel T. Bucovaz says that this "B-protein" marker apparently "is produced by the body in response to rapid, abnormal cell growth." As such it is far from a foolproof diagnostic test, he cautions, since production of the protein might be stimulated by benign tumors or by the third trimester of pregnancy. However, as a rough-cut screening test during physicals, it might offer an early warning of asymptomatic cancer, he says. But Bucovaz sees its most important value as periodic screen in patients who have undergone cancer therapy.

In tests involving 2,500 cancer patients, he says his group detected 87 percent. For controls, they tested urine from 3,500 noncancerous hospital patients aged 30 to 65 and from several hundred younger, healthy adults. False positive findings among these groups ranged from 5 to 10 percent.

Bucovaz says he's leaving follow-up efficacy testing--needed to win Food and Drug Administration approval -- to any commercial developers of the test. A qualitative test that takes only minutes to analyze might be performed in a physician's office for less than $5, Bucovaz says. Positive findings could be confirmed using a slightly more expensive and complicated laboratory-analyzed quantitative assay.
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Author:Raloff, Janet
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 28, 1985
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