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Thousands of volunteers needed to help bring cure for cancer closer

Researchers, who are in the process of developing a blood test that may diagnose breast cancer up to four years earlier than a mammogram, need the help of thousands of people living in the East Midlands.

The University of Nottingham spin-out company Oncimmune pioneers anti-cancer technology, and has reached the final stages of its research which could identify an immune response to breast cancer.

The initial research came out of the laboratories of cancer specialist, John Robertson, Professor of Surgery at The University of Nottingham. If this test can be developed it will be the first of its kind in the world and it could be on trial in America this year.

Professor Robertson and his team need at least 3,500 healthy people to come forward and donate a blood sample which would be used both for further research and to help develop the technology. The researchers emphasise that there will not be any feedback of results to the donor.

Professor Robertson said: “We are getting close to having a blood test that will provide a better chance of identifying more people who have an early stage breast cancer at a point when it can be cured.”

This huge blood collection project begins in earnest this month with a team of medical and support staff initially using health centres in their search for volunteers aged anywhere between 18 and 90 — to cover all decades of life. The team is also planning to take to the road travelling, by bus, to supermarkets, town centre markets, farmer’s markets, health centres and libraries.

The search for donors starts in Nottinghamshire and move to Derbyshire and Leicestershire over the coming months.

Oncimmune's tests for cancer measure auto-antibodies that accumulate in the blood in reaction to the presence of a cancerous tumour, even when the tumour is in its earliest stages. Preliminary studies have already shown that the test can be positive up to four years earlier than a mammogram might indicate a breast cancer.

A £150,000 donation from Nottingham University Hospitals Charity has helped Oncimmune invest in state of the art robot equipment to speed up part of the testing process. Some of the money was raised through the auction of an abstract work of art by Jennie Bambury which featured breast imprints of Nottinghamshire celebrities.

Most families have been affected by cancer and the best way to cure cancer is to detect it before it spreads. The difficulty is that a number of cancers, such as breast, colorectal, prostate and ovarian cancer, will have spread in the majority of patients before they are diagnosed.

Research into the detection of the immune response to breast and other types of cancer continues in Professor Robertson’s laboratories at The University of Nottingham while the development of commercial products is funded through Oncimmune, Ltd.

In November last year Oncimmune announced the company was to open a North American arm in a 30 million dollar deal that also involved collaboration with cancer researchers at the University of Kansas.

Emma Thorne | alfa
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