Firm developed a test that detected 99% of cancer patients with various stages of the disease.

Panacea Pharmaceuticals reports that it has discovered a protein in the blood of patients with all stages of lung cancer. The company states that it has also developed a blood test based on this marker, which rarely shows up in the blood of people without the disease.

The protein is Human Aspartyl (Asparaginyl) ß-Hydroxylase (HAAH). The investigators say that it is abnormally expressed on the surface of cancer cells compared to normal cells, where it resides inside the cell body. The protein recognizes cell surface growth factors and modifies them, reports Panacea, pushing the cells into uncontrolled growth.

It is likely that increased expression of HAAH is an early step in cancer development, since all stages of lung cancer express roughly the same level of the protein compared to adjacent normal cells, according to the company.

Using the newly developed test, the Panacea team found that 99% of 160 patients who represented all stages and various types of lung cancer had high levels of HAAH protein in their blood, but only 9% of 93 non-smokers without lung cancer had a positive HAAH blood test.

In a group of 50 smokers not known to have cancer, four patients had levels of HAAH that were higher than the projected cut-off line established between cancer development and no disease. It is not known, however, whether these four people did eventually develop lung cancer because the samples were provided for study without access to patient records, reports the company.

The research was presented on September 18 in Atlanta, Georgia at the American Association for Cancer Research’s second “International Conference on Molecular Diagnostics in Cancer Therapeutic Development.”

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