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Urine Test Detects Kidney Cancer

By Kate Ruder

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An experimental urine test that could be used detect kidney cancer in its early stages has shown promise in a recent study. The test is being developed for commercial use by Epigenomics in Seattle, Washington, and their collaborators.

Early kidney cancer is notoriously difficult to diagnose, and as with most cancers, early detection and treatment are key. Most cases of kidney cancer are currently diagnosed using ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, or biopsies.

The test detects changes in six “tumor-suppressor” genes commonly altered in kidney cancer, also called renal cell cancer.

In a trial of the technology, researchers used the test to accurately diagnose cancer in 44 of 50 patients who had the disease, including 27 of 30 patients with early kidney cancer. They also tested urine from 22 patients without the disease, and none tested positive.

Equally encouraging was the fact that after the tumors were removed from patients, their urine showed no evidence of disease. The findings were reported at the American Urological Association Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California, this week.

“This [research] may enhance early detection of kidney cancer using a noninvasive urine test,” says Paul Cairns, who led the study at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Once the test is commercially available, it would likely be used on people at risk for kidney cancer, such as those with a family history of the disease, smokers, or overweight patients, according to Cairns.

Flight Attendants Medical Research Institute

The study was funded in part by the Flight Attendants Medical Research Institute (FAMRI). The institute was formally established in 2000 after flight attendants won a class action lawsuit against the tobacco industry for damages caused by second-hand smoke in airplane cabins.

The tobacco settlement included the creation of a nonprofit research institution with $300 million from the tobacco industry. In 2002, Cairns received a grant from the institute to study early detection of cancer. Forty percent of kidney cancers are linked to smoking.

Congress banned smoking on all domestic flights of two hours or less in 1987 and extended the ban to virtually all domestic flights in 1989.

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