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Utah researchers looking for less invasive ways to detect cancer

Utah researchers looking for less invasive ways to detect cancer

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SALT LAKE CITY — Medical researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute, Brigham Young University and the University of Utah are looking for less invasive methods to detect early stages of cancer.

Dr. John Sweetenham, a hematologist at Huntsman, said just about every cancer is more curable when it’s detected early, but people don’t always want to get tested because of the invasive — and sometimes uncomfortable — methods.

“If you can have a stool sample tested for colon cancer versus having a colonoscopy, then I think most people would favor that,” Sweetenham said. “Likewise, if you had a blood test that would detect a cancer instead of needing a biopsy of a piece of tissue, most folks would have their screenings done.”

Last year, researchers at BYU and the U. developed a procedure called sodium MRI that looks at breast tissue to determine if one has breast cancer, according to University of Utah Health Care.


The sooner the treatment starts, the less extensive the treatment is and the more likely the patients are going to do better.

–John Sweetenham


Currently, researchers at Huntsman have been involved in looking at genetic make up to pinpoint which individuals might develop cancer.

“Some of our researchers have conducted very extensive studies looking at colon cancer risk,” Sweetenham said. “By analyzing family histories of certain individuals, it’s possible to identify people who are going to be more at risk, and with that information, you can target your screening efforts to those group of patients.”

Sweetenham said the Huntsman Cancer Institute has a high track record for discovering genetic causes in cancer.

“Some of these less invasive, new tests really are going to be tremendously important, because early detection only works if people actually get the test,” Sweetenham said. “The sooner the treatment starts, the less extensive the treatment is, and the more likely the patients are going to do better.”

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Megan Marsden Christensen

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