New test detects cancer earlier

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The Independent Online
A TEST for cervical cancer that can detect changes in the cells at an earlier stage than existing methods and could reduce misdiagnoses has been developed by scientists.

The system, which uses infra-red light to analyse the chemical composition of cells, can spot those in the earliest stage of becoming cancerous before the changes are visible under the microscope.

The discovery, by US researchers from Rockefeller University in New York, and the biotech company Digilab, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the third advance reported in the past 10 days which, it is claimed, could improve the accuracy of screening.

The others involve the use of antibodies to mark abnormal cells with a telltale dye to make them easier to recognise, and a technique of "liquid cytology" in which the cervical cells to be examined are first dispersed in liquid before being spread out on the slide to make them easier to see.

The latest development, reported in the US journal Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences, involved a study of cells taken from 10 healthy women, seven women with the pre-malignant stage of cervical cancer known as dysplasia and five with cervical cancer.