Worms set on sniffing out cancer
A WORLD-first study of Queensland patients has found roundworms can detect cancer in urine with a high degree of accuracy.
Queensland University of Technology cancer researcher Derek Richard said Brisbane was chosen for the early-stage study of a Japanese-developed diagnostic test because of expertise in clinical trial design.
Professor Richard, of QUT’s Cancer and Ageing Research Program, said the study, involving 75 cancer patients at the Princess Alexandra Hospital and 15 healthy participants, found the roundworms, with a heightened sense of smell, were able to detect cancer with more than 90 per cent accuracy.
He said Japanese biomedical company Hirotsu Bio-Science was negotiating with the State Government to relocate its research and development division to QUT’s Kelvin Grove campus and that the study would be expanded to include hundreds of patients.
“On one side of a plate, you put a drop of urine from a patient who may have cancer and on the other side you stick a drop of urine of someone (who) doesn’t,” Prof Richard said.
“The worms swim towards the cancer patient’s urine. It’s quite spectacular to see.”
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Hirotsu’s choice of Queensland for their project N-Nose fuelled her government’s goal for the state to become a global biomedical hub.
“This cutting-edge project has the potential to generate highly skilled jobs,” she said.
Prof Richard said the study patients had prostate, lung, breast or colorectal cancer and that the test, if it goes to market, could revolutionise cancer care.
“Ultimately, you could go for a urine test once a year to be screened for cancer,” he said.
WINNERS ON A PLATE: Alex Clark and Emily O’Kane. Picture: Sarah Marshall