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October 16, 2009

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Scientists in cancer discovery

CITY scientists announced yesterday that they had found a genetic material that can predict whether liver cancer will recur in patients.

The discovery was published in the latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, a world-leading publication on medical research, biomedical science and clinical practice.

With the cooperation of colleagues in Hong Kong and the United States, medical experts from the city's Zhongshan Hospital found a small segment of genetic material in microRNA can predict a patient's survival chances and response to interferon treatment, a popular therapy to control liver cancer reoccurrence and hepatitis.

Researchers said patients with low levels of miR-26, one of the 100 microRNA materials in the human body, in cancer tissues had a shorter survival than those with high levels and were more likely to have a reoccurrence after surgery. On the other hand, these patients had a better response to interferon treatment.

"This discovery is very meaningful in guiding clinical practice by screening the patients needing early intervention for reoccurrence prevention and controlling and whether interferon is effective to this patient," said Zhongshan's Sun Huichuan, the project's lead researcher.

Liver cancer is the third leading cancer killer in the world and the second in China, after lung cancer.

Every year 600,000 people are diagnosed with liver cancer globally and half of them are in China.

"Though genetic causes for liver cancer are still unknown, it is certain that liver cancer has a close relationship with chronic hepatitis," Sun said. "Surgery is the only effective method for a patient's longer-term survival, but 40 to 60 percent of patients can suffer a reoccurrence, the major cause impacting upon their survival."

The Shanghai experts said their discovery was still in its primary stages amd more research was needed.


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