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Stanford's HIV and cancer test detects their presence earlier

And earlier detection means more effective treatment.

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A new technique to detect HIV and cancer developed by a team of Stanford chemists could save lives. It's a lot more sensitive than current screening tools, and hence has the power to detect diseases much earlier. As you know, the earlier an illness is detected, the more treatable it is. Like many other screening tests, this one also works by fishing for antibodies our immune system produces when it detects diseases using molecules with "flags" attached to them.

Its secret is that it replaces typical flags used today with short strands of DNA. Those strands can be segregated using DNA isolation techniques more sensitive than current techniques to isolate antibodies. When the team pitted their test against FDA-approved variants for thyroid cancer, for instance, they found that it's at least at least 800 times (and as much as 10,000 times) more sensitive.

Peter Robinson, one of the team members and co-authors of the study said:

The thyroid cancer test has historically been a fairly challenging immunoassay, because it produces a lot of false positives and false negatives, so it wasn't clear if our test would have an advantage. We suspected ours would be more sensitive, but we were pleasantly surprised by the magnitude.

Since the thyroid cancer experiment already proved the new test's potency, the team has already begun conducting clinical trials. In fact, it's already being tested as an HIV screening tool at the Alameda County Public Health Laboratory.

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