The carbohydrate compound known as CA19-9 has been revealed to potentially aid the growth of tumors. This information came from a decades-long study that the magazine Science recently published. Dr. Hollingsworth, UNMC laureate working at the Eppley Institute, was the project leader for this study, whose perspective on this carbohydrate inspired the entire endeavor.
Namely, CA19-9 has long since been correlated with cancer. More precisely, doctors would use it as a biomarker for the status of a cancer sufferer’s condition. If their body contained less of the compound, it would often mean that the tumor was receding. The opposite would happen when they found more CA19-9.
However, Dr. Hollingsworth had an idea about this chemical. He believed that it might be more than just an indicator of the gravity of a patient’s health. Rather, it actively contributed to the worsening of a patient’s health, the more of it was present in the body.
His study found that not only does CA19-9 help cancer progress, but that it also contributes to other diseases. More specifically, illnesses like pancreatitis also demonstrated more exacerbated effects in correlation to its amount in a patient.
The idea that this carbohydrate damages health came to Dr. Hollingsworth from anecdotal evidence. As he claims, he got it when hearing about patients’ worsening health. Their dip in health seemed to frequently coincide with how much CA19-9 they had. These people would usually die when their levels of carbohydrate were consistently high.
The medical community still has a poor grasp on how cancer works and how to effectively treat it. And discovering the ill effects of CA19-9 uncovers a tiny piece of the puzzle. This breakthrough, however, is an essential step in the process of understanding and medicating cancer.