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New test offers breakthrough in early detection of endometrial cancer

Manchester BRC researchers have helped to reach an important breakthrough in the fight against endometrial cancer, with the development of non-invasive test for women.

In the largest study of its kind, researchers across The University of Manchester (UoM), University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), and Brazil’s Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, developed a new technique to diagnose women with the disease.

Emma Crosbie, BRC Cancer Early Detection Lead and Professor of Gynaecological Oncology at The University of Manchester, was part of the study, alongside other members of her Endometrial Cancer Research Group, based at Saint Mary’s Hospital, part of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT). The study was led by UCLan, in collaboration with other NHS clinicians across Manchester, Lancashire and London.

Blood vials

Professor Crosbie is also a consultant at MFT. She said:

“This research is an exciting development in diagnosing endometrial cancer. Current diagnostic tests involve a series of intimate, expensive and labour intensive techniques that are unpleasant for women. While together these tests will accurately diagnose cancer, individually they’re less accurate and mean women have to undergo more procedures.

“A simple blood test will spare women from unnecessary procedures, and we’re excited about the prospect of this test being used to improve early diagnosis and fast track women for treatment.”

Professor Emma Crosbie, BRC Cancer Early Detection Lead

In the UK, endometrial cancer is the fourth most common cancer, with around 9,400 women diagnosed each year, of which around 2,300 die from the disease.

The research was published in the Cancers journal, and looked at blood samples taken from 652 women, including; healthy women, those with confirmed endometrial cancer, and those with atypical hyperplasia, which causes cells in the womb to grow abnormally and can eventually develop into cancer.

The new test uses a technique called blood spectrometry, which uses infrared light to analyse plasma cells in the blood. This looks for a unique biological ‘fingerprint’ of combinations of proteins, fats, and other molecules in the blood that showed signs of endometrial cancer.

Researchers found this method has the potential to detect endometrial cancer with 83 percent accuracy. This accuracy was highest for type I endometrial cancer, the most common subtype. For atypical hyperplasia, the test had an overall accuracy of 90 percent.

Dr Maria Paraskevaidi, lead investigator of the study and research associate at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and Imperial College London said:

“Despite the rising incidence of endometrial cancer throughout the world, there have been few advances made in improving diagnosis and prognosis of this disease.

“Our research signals an important step forward for patients, clinicians and the research community, and has the potential to be developed into a simple, low-cost and instantaneous test for endometrial cancer in the future.”

Dr Pierre Martin-Hirsch, consultant in gynaecological cancer surgery and Research Director at Lancashire Teaching Hospital commented:

“This is a potential game changer in the early recognition of endometrial cancer. I am proud of the achievements of this collaborative team.”

While further research and development is needed, this could be developed into a fast, simple and low-cost test to identify women with endometrial cancer or at risk of developing it, meaning they can be treated much sooner.

Read more about our Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Research.