Why we're looking for cancer clues in urine
The human immune system is actually quite good at killing cancer cells. In fact, we believe it does so quite frequently. People who have AIDS or have had an organ transplant have suppressed immune systems and go on to develop cancer more often than healthy individuals. And as people age, their immune systems don't work as well and they develop cancer more often.
But sometimes a tumour grows faster than the immune system can cope with, or can hide from the immune system's surveillance. Many researchers are now trying to boost the immune system to create new and more effective treatments than conventional techniques such as chemotherapy.
For the last 19 years, I have been looking for proteins in the body that could help stimulate the immune system to kill cancer. And my colleagues and I have now discovered that one of these proteins could also be used to diagnose ovarian cancer much earlier than was thought possible. If it could be used in a simple urine test, it could pave the way for survival rates to increase from around 20% to as much as 90% for patients who have this protein in their wee.
These proteins are known as antigens, meaning they are...