While it is never a good time to be a patient on the receiving end of a diagnosis of cancer, it is a very exciting time to be working in the field of cancer research. This is because researchers are closer than ever before at spotting cancer early, treating it better, and inching closer to a cure for the lethal disease.

Now, researchers from the University of Oxford have pinpointed a protein that they dub a "supermolecule" because of its three-in-one capacities. Its powers include early detection of cancer, destruction of tumor cells, and monitoring of treatment to make sure that cancer does not return.

The researchers described during the National Cancer Research Institute's eighth annual conference how they photographed the protein, Gamma H2AX. The protein was selected because previous research had found that precancerous cells in the breast, lung, and skin had high levels of Gamma H2AX. They photographed the molecule by using a fluorescent antibody that seeks out and attaches itself to the protein. The photographs that the researchers took revealed the location of precancerous cells in very early stages.

This protein would be extremely useful because oncologists and patients have the greatest success in fighting cancer when it is caught early. For example, prostate cancer, highlighted during this month's Movember, has a relatively high survival rate. According to the American Cancer Society, 91 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer survive for another 15 years after their diagnosis. But in later stages of prostate cancer, that number can plummet to 29 percent.

The researchers had previously targeted Gamma H2AX to deliver radiotherapy, using an antibody, to breast cells with high levels of the protein. This form of radiotherapy damages the DNA of the cells so severely that they cannot correct mistakes and die. The study found that the protein destroyed tumor cells and slowed the growth of tumors. Further research would need to be undertaken though in order to establish whether this procedure was a viable procedure for patients. However, initial studies have found that the procedure is able to destroy certain cells before they even become cancer.

In the future, researchers believe that they can map out the radioactive antibodies to show just how well the treatment is working.