A study being conducted at Swansea University is going about spotting cancer in a different way. Much like a smoke detector detects the by product of fire-smoke-their new testing method detects mutations in red blood cells. These specific mutations signal that cancer could likely be just starting to develop, but isn't yet detectable by traditional methods. In the cells that are detected with their method, there is a surface protein on the red blood cells that is missing and this is an indicator of cancer.
The study has looked at blood samples from patients who have esophageal cancer, about 300 so far. The results look good, but it's early days. The team is also looking at blood samples from healthy volunteers so they can set a threshold for what is normal. Some patients could have a few red blood cells with the missing protein, but not necessarily have cancer. The researchers are focused on finding the just right number that signals something could be wrong