The Best Way to Fight Cancer is to Catch it Early

Earlier cancer detection may provide new hope for patients with cancer

Many diseases, including cancer, develop over a relatively long period of time and thus provide an opportunity to find them in an early stage when they are much more treatable. The cure rates for many cancers discovered in its first stages are often 80-90% or better, but as the cancer progresses without treatment it is harder to reverse and cure. Dr. Dan Raftery, at the University of Washington, is working to develop earlier detection and better ways to monitor the efficacy of cancer therapies. The biomarkers Dr. Raftery and his team discover and develop have also provided a clearer understanding of the disease processes and give clues towards finding new therapies. In addition, the same innovative technology can be applied to other diseases, including IBS, diabetes, depression, and heart disease among others, thereby extending the health sustaining promise of his research to millions each year!

Dr. Raftery and his team have proven success in developing panels of biomarkers which provide a new and powerful approach for developing cancer diagnostics with high accuracy. His team of twelve includes three senior researchers who work with several postdoctoral scientists and graduate students within the group. Recent findings indicate that cancer affects metabolism, altering the levels of many small molecules in the blood and urine that can be detected. Dr. Raftery and his team have developed analytical platforms to profile well over 1000 small molecules in the blood and urine and are using this approach to develop panels of diagnostic biomarkers for early cancer detection. He works closely with his collaborators at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to discover and develop accurate diagnostic tests for several cancers, as well as other life threatening diseases. In addition, his team has access to the premier clinical laboratory at the University of Washington, where they are able to perform clinical trials and ultimately offer the tests they develop.

Current research includes:

  • Diagnostic Tests: Dr. Raftery is developing new diagnostic tests for a variety of important diseases, especially several cancers. In particular, he and his team have been very active in liver, esophageal, colon and breast cancers.

  • Metabolism and Disease: Dr. Raftery is developing an improved understanding of the relationship between metabolism and disease. Through such development, Dr. Raftery hopes to identify unique ways to target aberrant metabolism that might lead to new drugs or therapies and even new ideas for nutritional supplements to correct metabolic imbalances.


Dr. Raftery's passion is to discover and develop new and advanced tools for scientific studies, which allow more sensitive, reliable and faster measurements of molecules in complex samples, and improve ways to understand biological systems. As a kid, he loved building new kinds of machines and electronic gizmos. All of these types of challenges and rewards are part of doing research. The fact that he and his team are trying to improve health through their research efforts makes the successful experiments that much more rewarding.

In his free time, aside from research, Dr. Raftery enjoys running, biking, and playing the piano. He also appreciates time spent with his family of five, and enjoys visits to his wife's home country of Spain.



Harvard College Scholarship, 1982-84

Chateaubriand International Research Scholarship, 1987-88

Research Corporation Cottrell Scholars Award, 1997-99

Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow, 1999-01

Purdue School of Science Engagement Award, 2011