PSC Support has awarded £40,000 to Dr Simon Rushbrook to continue developing a blood test to diagnose PSC. His previous research, funded by PSC Support, found ten promising antibody markers which he will now test on a larger scale to find one that is unique to PSC.
Dr Rushbrook will do this by analysing blood samples from 200 people with PSC and other conditions that affect the bile ducts to find the molecule that drives the immune system to damage the bile ducts in people with PSC. This unique molecule could be used in a blood test to diagnose PSC. Importantly, this new understanding could also open a whole new avenue of research to turn off the faulty immune response in PSC and stop the disease progressing.
Our patient surveys tell us that one in six people wait more than two years for a PSC diagnosis.
This is because there is no single blood test to diagnose PSC, and doctors must put together clues from our medical history, blood tests and scans. In some cases, the doctor may also need to take a tiny sample (biopsy) of the liver to look closely at the cells under the microscope to make a diagnosis or rule out other conditions. This takes time, expertise and experience.
Dr Rushbrook’s earlier research screened serum from blood samples from 20 people with PSC against a platform of over 20,000 human serum proteins. From this work he has now identified a list of potential antibody markers of interest which he will now validate scientifically in a much larger group of patients in a more focused way.
What will Dr Rushbrook do?
Dr Rushbrook will build on his previous research to look for a marker that is unique to people with PSC. He will do this by analysing 150 blood samples from people who have donated a blood sample to the UK-PSC study and 50 from people with cholestatic liver disease (PBC and IgG4-related disease).
Why is this study important?
Dr Rushbrook’s study is important because there is no single blood test to diagnose PSC, and getting a diagnosis can take months, even years. This means that people miss out on crucial cancer screening and opportunities to take part in clinical trials to test treatments for PSC. People with PSC urgently need a simple, definitive diagnostic test.
If successful, Dr Rushbrook’s research will be the first step towards developing a simple blood test to diagnose people with PSC quickly and definitively, removing the uncertainty, anxiety and stress caused by not knowing exactly what is wrong.
In addition, the marker that Dr Rushbrook hopes to find is the molecule responsible for activating the immune system in people with PSC. If successful, unlocking this critical knowledge will be the breakthrough that could pave the way to developing a drug to switch off the faulty immune response and stop PSC from progressing.
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