Cancer researchers get $4.1 million to study early detection

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UGA cancer researchers Karen Abbott and Michael Pierce in October received two five-year grants from the National Institutes of Health totaling more than $4.1 million to explore new methods of detecting early-stage ovarian and pancreatic cancer.

Both researchers are searching for ways to detect specific kinds of glycans—tiny sugar molecules found on the outside of proteins—that sometimes appear in blood and tissue during the earliest stages of cancer formation. If Abbott and Pierce can isolate these glycomarkers and detect them in blood, they may develop new, non-invasive tests that physicians could use to screen for cancer as part of a regular checkup.

Ovarian and pancreatic cancers are among the most deadly, not because they are impossible to cure, but because they are difficult to find. There are no screening tests that can reliably detect their presence in early stages, and most diagnoses are made after the disease has already spread to lymph nodes and vital organs.