October 10, 2006
What if a urine test could determine whether you had cancer or not? That's what researchers at the University of Virginia Health Systems are working on.
"The best known urine test for protein is the pregnancy dip stick. You have a little piece of plastic that have antibodies on it and you stick it in the urine and it turns red or green or whatever color it turns and that means that protein is present. Wouldn't it be nice if we can do that for cancer," asked the chair of UVa's Department of Pathology, Dr. Dennis Templeton.
The five-year, $1.5 million award from the National Cancer Institute will go towards that research, to identify cancer proteins in urine.
"Almost everything from your body winds up in the urine eventually. We can detect those proteins with established techniques if we know what the proteins are. So we have to find out what the proteins are, then we can make a test," explained Dr. Templeton.
Scientists have been working on the project over the past year, developing the software and chemistry. What used to take about three months in analysis now takes a few minutes. This grant will allow them to keep right on going.
"It will wind up paying for a lot of people's activities, for our programmers and the clinicians that are collecting samples and for the statisticians who are doing the analysis," said Dr. Templeton.
Researchers are hoping what comes out of the lab could end up saving many lives.
"If you catch cancer earlier, you have a much better chance of curing the disease," said Dr. Templeton.
Researchers will be working over the next five years and hope that by then, they will be able to identify a handful of proteins for detection.