Could an inexpensive test, used in conjunction with current, traditional HCC testing help reveal one’s liver cancer risk? Research for the V-chip is described in an article published in this week’s Health Canal.
Scientists from the Houston Methodist Research Institute and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center will receive about $2.1 million from the National Cancer Institute to learn whether a small, low-cost device can help assess a person’s risk of developing a common form of liver cancer.
The four-year project is based on technology previously developed by Houston Methodist nanomedicine faculty member Lidong Qin, Ph.D., who is the new project’s principal investigator. Qin’s “V-Chip,” or volumetric bar-chart chip, will be used to detect biomarkers for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common cause of liver cancer. The device only requires a drop of blood from a finger prick.
The V-Chip allows the testing of up to 50 different molecules in a blood or urine sample.
“Most of the burden of HCC is borne by people who have low income, with the highest incidence rates reported in regions of the world where infection with hepatitis B virus is endemic,” Qin said. “Developing an accurate and low-cost technology that assesses the risk of cancer could make a big difference to people who ordinarily can’t afford expensive tests.”
M.D. Anderson Department of Epidemiology Chair Xifeng Wu is the project’s co-principal investigator.
Qin and Wu will see whether the V-Chip accurately detects HCC biomarkers. The researchers will also determine which combination of these biomarkers proves most predictive of disease.
Among the biomarkers the researchers will look at are antigens of hepatitis viruses B and C, aflatoxin (a fungal toxin that at high doses is associated with cancer risk), and metabolic indicators of alcohol consumption, obesity, diabetes, and iron overdose.
Tests of the V-chip will not replace traditional testing methods, but rather be carried out in tandem so that patients’ care cannot be adversely affected.
Hepatocellular carcinoma is believed to be the third-highest cause of cancer death worldwide and the ninth leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. It is most commonly caused by a past infection of hepatitis viruses B or C (HBV or HCV) and cirrhosis of the liver caused by alcohol abuse or other toxic damage.