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The new tool could help address the need for accessible diagnostic tools, especially in remote areas.

A Sustainable Approach to Cancer Diagnosis

Using dried serum spots instead of liquid blood storage, the new tool provides an environmentally friendly alternative to cancer diagnosis

Springer Nature

Springer Nature or the Springer Nature Group is a German-British academic publishing company created by the May 2015 merger of Springer Science+Business Media and Holtzbrinck Publishing Group's Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan, and Macmillan Education.

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Published:Apr 22, 2024
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An accurate, affordable, environmentally and user-friendly diagnostic tool for multiple cancers—including pancreatic, gastric, and colorectal cancers—is reported in a paper published in Nature Sustainability

The new tool can diagnose cancers within minutes and could help to address the need for accessible diagnostic tools, especially in remote areas.

More than a billion people across the world experience a high rate of missed disease diagnosis—the World Health Organization estimates that fewer than 30 percent of low-income countries have access to generally available diagnosis facilities. It is estimated that 70 percent of cancer-related deaths worldwide occur in lower- and middle-income countries, demonstrating the need for accurate and affordable tests. Additionally, tests may be used in ecologically sensitive or energy-limited regions, and solutions are needed to ensure sustainable options are available.

Kun Qian and colleagues developed a cancer diagnostic method based on metabolite detection. Using dried serum spots, instead of traditional liquid blood storage, this tool provides an environmentally friendly and metabolite-stable solution for biological sample collection and storage. They combined this with nanoparticle-enhanced mass spectrometry, which enhanced detection sensitivity and speed. 

Qian and colleagues indicate that this approach allows for the diagnosis of pancreatic, gastric, and colorectal cancers within minutes, offering affordability, environmental friendliness, serum-equivalent precision and a user-friendly protocol. 

By collaborating with population-based cancer screening programs, the authors suggest that implementing this tool in less-developed regions could reduce missed diagnoses of colorectal, gastric, and pancreatic cancers by as much as 20.35–55.10 percent.

This technology could offer increased accessibility and accuracy and may maximize health gains within available resources, the authors conclude.