What a worm! Japan firm uses nematodes to sniff out cancer
A screening test using tiny worms to detect early signs of pancreatic cancer in urine has been developed by a Japanese biotech firm, which hopes it could help boost routine screening.

Scientists have long known that the bodily fluids of cancer patients smell different to those of healthy people, with dogs trained to detect the disease in breath or urine samples.

But Hirotsu Bio Science has genetically modified a type of worm called "C. elegans"—around one millimetre long, with an acute sense of smell—to react to the urine of people with pancreatic cancer, which is notoriously difficult to detect early.

The Tokyo-based firm has already used the worms to detect cancer in screening tests, though without specifying which type.

The new test is not meant to diagnose pancreatic cancer, but could help boost routine screening as urine samples can be collected at home without the need for a hospital visit, researcher said.

And if the worms raise the alarm, the patient would then be referred to a doctor for further testing, he said.

He is hopeful it could help boost cancer detection rates in Japan, which like many countries has seen screening rates drop during the pandemic as people avoided medical visits.

Even before the pandemic, Japanese patients showed up for cancer screenings less often than many of their peers in developed countries, according to OECD data.

"This is a game-changer... People need to change the way they think about cancer screening," said researcher.

In separate tests conducted by the firm, the worms correctly identified all 22 urine samples from pancreatic cancer patients, including people with early stages of the disease.

Authors noted that unlike dogs, the worms needed no training to sniff out cancer in patients.

Researchers pointed out that the "unconventional" nature of the method could be "one reason why this has not received more attention."

Source: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-11-worm-japan-firm-nematodes-cancer.html?utm_source=nwletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily-nwletter