There is no question that the future of oncology will be focused around early detection of cancer cells. If we can detect these cells at an extremely early stage then it will be possible to cure the cancer before it manifests as a clinical disease. At this point in time there is no single test that is guaranteed to detect cancer at these early stages but there are several tests that are showing great promise.
One such test is known as the Oncoblot test which has been demonstrated as a reliable detector of early stage cancer in several studies1,2. This test analyzes the blood for the presence of ENOX2 which is a protein often released into the blood stream via cancerous cells. These proteins are detectable before any scan would be able to identify an abnormal mass. A mass of several millions of cancer cells would be far too small for any scan to detect but these cells would be releasing significant levels of this protein which this test could potentially identify.
Not only does this test identify the presence of cancer in these early stages, it can often identify the tissue of origin based off of variations in the protein. In other words, the test also identifies the most likely area where these abnormal cells are growing. It is clear that in the near future oncology will rely heavily on these types of tests to proactively treat cancer.
It is important to point out that no test is 100% and tests such as the Oncoblot are not intended to be used in patients as a replacement for conventional screening. It should be used together with conventional screening. This test is often used several months post surgery to assess for the presence of residual cancer cells. For example, following the removal of a cancer and when given the all clear diagnosis, patients are often left with the constant fear of recurrence. Conventional screening will only be able to detect a mass when it has grown to a clinically significant size. This test can help to detect the presence of cancerous cells far earlier and can help to justify a more aggressive treatment plan. Another test which can be helpful in these circumstances is the circulating tumour cells test, which directly detects cancerous cells in the blood stream following a surgery3.
In patients with a family history of cancer, these tests provide an additional way to test for the early development of cancer. This can potentially identify the cancer far sooner than any CT scan or MRI. The controversy about this test is not about the reliability, it is about what to do with this information. The vast majority of clinical trials look at how chemotherapy and radiation impact masses that are detectable on scans. These protocols are generally not designed to work with cancer that is only detectable in the blood via these markers. As a consequence it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of a conventional therapy if we cannot “see” what we are fighting. This is the reason why these tests are not covered by MSP.
There is a growing interest in the mainstream oncology community to use these tests and proactively treat cancer before it has the opportunity to progress. Once the cancer is identified we can also support the immune system using natural tools so that your body is more likely to identify and engage these cells. A truly integrative plan can help to get all the necessary information and develop the most effective treatment plan possible.
These tests are regularly run at Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic in Vancouver, BC and they can provide patients with the critical information necessary to make informed decisions about their integrative cancer plan.
Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com
- Morré, D. James, et al. “ENOX2-based early detection (ONCOblot) of asbestos-induced malignant mesothelioma 4–10 years in advance of clinical symptoms.” Clinical Proteomics 13.1 (2016): 1.
- Morré, D. James, and David J. Taggart. “ONCOblot consistently detects State 0 and Stage 1 cancers and correctly identifies the tissue of origin.” ONCOblot Reports 1.4 (2015): 1-2.
- Zhang, Liling, et al. “Meta-analysis of the prognostic value of circulating tumor cells in breast cancer.” Clinical Cancer Research 18.20 (2012): 5701-5710.