Japan Might Have An Easier Way To Detect Cancer – From Urine Samples

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Apr 18 2018
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You might have read how specially trained dogs could detect prostate cancer at an early stage. Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and was responsible for 8.8 million deaths in 2015. And depending on your country, cancer could be the biggest killer. Cancer is so deadly primarily due to detection problem.


Traditionally, doctors have tried to detect cancer early with high-tech imaging, tissue samples, and surgical exploration. Unfortunately, these techniques often catch cancer too late to achieve a cure, not to mention they can be invasive. A less invasive approach is to look for signs of cancer in the blood. Still, not many people fancy being poked with a needle for blood.


There could be a simpler non-invasive solution, if a trial by a Japanese company succeeded. Hitachi, an engineering and IT conglomerate, has developed technology to detect breast or colon cancer from urine samples about 2 years ago. It will now begin testing the method using some 250 urine samples, to ascertain if samples at room temperature are suitable for analysis.

Cancer - Urine Sample

What this means is there will be a new methodology – friendlier and easier way – to test for cancers. Urine samples can be collected at home, rather than blood taken by doctors, before being sent to a laboratory to be analysed for about 30 types of cancer biomarkers found in amino acids and fats. Hitachi’s trials will start this month until through September in cooperation with Nagoya University in central Japan.


Hitachi spokesman Chiharu Odaira told AFP – “If this method is put to practical use, it will be a lot easier for people to get a cancer test, as there will be no need to go to a medical organisation for a blood test. That will be especially beneficial in testing for small children, who are often afraid of needles.” He also said it could be used to detect paediatric cancers.


This will be the world’s first experiment to test for cancer using urine samples, which would greatly facilitate screening for the deadly disease. Earlier this year, research published that a new blood test has shown promising results towards detecting 8 different kinds of tumours before they spread elsewhere in the body.

Breast Cancer Checking

Traditionally, the diagnostic methods for breast cancer consist of a mammogram followed by a biopsy if a risk is detected. For colon cancer, screening is generally conducted via a stool test and a colonoscopy for patients at high risk. As U.S. and European medical companies race to develop early detection technologies, Japan now joins the fray.


California-based Illumina, a global leader in genomics backed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, hopes to launch by 2019 a service that finds cancer before symptoms appear. In Europe, Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding is also working on a reagent that identifies cancer types using blood samples.


The Hitachi technology involves detecting waste materials inside urine samples that act as a “biomarker” – a naturally occurring substance by which a particular disease can be identified. It’s peer, Shimadzu, on the other hand has turned to AI (artificial intelligence) to identify malignancies in two minutes from half an hour. The technology can identify liver, kidney, colon, stomach and other cancers.

Hitachi - Machine Screening for Cancer

Two years ago, specialists from Hitachi and Sumitomo developed a unique diagnostic system for the diagnosis of cancer by analysing urine. Human urine may contain up to 10 thousands of different compounds. And about 1.3 thousand of them in varying degrees, have a relationship with cancer. The change in the concentration of these compounds say a lot about the presence of tumour.


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