Study will investigate possibility of earlier cancer diagnosis

In collaboration with the Press Association

New research into the chemistry of DNA in cells could one day allow doctors to diagnose cancer earlier in patients, as well as provide improved treatment, a scientist from Glasgow University has claimed.

Professor Robert Brown, in partnership with Orion Genomics, a US company, is currently studying chemical patterns in the DNA of both normal cells and cancer cells. These patterns are formed by a process called 'DNA methylation' and are thought to be related to how a cell turns its genes on and off. Methylation is known to be abnormal in cancer cells.

The project hopes to discover distinct patterns of methylation in cancers, that would allow doctors to spot cancers early, and predict how they will respond to treatment, the Scotsman reports.

Professor Brown said: "By analysing methylation of tumour cells it may be possible for doctors to choose the most appropriate form of treatment, thus helping to get more effective drugs into patients quicker and reducing the risk of time wasted on ineffective treatments.

"The methylation technologies may prove to be extremely powerful in helping improve the outcome for cancer patients, particularly in clinical trials of novel agents."

The study is supported by Cancer Research UK, whose science information officer, Henry Scowcroft, commented: "Being able to tailor treatments to individual patients is an exciting prospect. We welcome this collaboration, which will speed up progress in this field."