Here is the full transcript of Hani Goodarzi’s talk titled “What If a Simple Blood Test Could Detect Cancer?” at TED conference.
In his talk titled “What If a Simple Blood Test Could Detect Cancer?”, biomedical researcher Hani Goodarzi explores the groundbreaking potential of using RNA, specifically a new class of non-coding RNAs known as oncRNAs, to detect cancer at its earliest stages through a simple blood test. He explains how these oncRNAs, which are unique to cancer cells, can serve as a digital molecular barcode to identify the type or subtype of cancer present in the body.
Goodarzi’s research, bolstered by machine learning and AI, aims to use these barcodes to not only detect the presence of cancer but also to understand its biology more deeply. Through a preliminary study with breast cancer patients, his team has shown promising results in detecting residual disease post-treatment, potentially revolutionizing how cancer is monitored and treated. His talk underscores the potential for this technology to make cancer screening more precise, sensitive, and accessible, marking a significant step forward in the fight against cancer.
Listen to the audio version here:
Catching cancer at its earliest stages, when it’s most treatable, can save countless lives. But the million-dollar question is: in an otherwise healthy body made up of trillions of cells, how can we zero in on a small group of rogue cancer cells? The answer, I think, may be rooted in something that, thanks to the pandemic, we have all come to know quite well, and that is RNA. I think these days, everyone has a basic understanding of how RNA works, again, thanks to the COVID vaccines.
The Role of RNA in Cancer Detection
But basically, RNA is transcribed from DNA in the cell, and messenger RNA specifically serves as a template for protein synthesis. So usually, the more mRNA you have in the cell, the more protein you get. But our discovery is a little bit different.
We have found a new class of RNAs that have changed how we think about cancer detection. These are relatively small RNAs, and they don’t actually code for any protein. So they’re non-coding. And since we found them, we got to name them. We have called them orphan non-coding RNAs or oncRNAs for short.