Scientists Inch Closer to Detecting Cancers With a Blood Test

A Cheap and Easy Blood Test Could Catch Cancer Early

A Cheap and Easy Blood Test Could Catch Cancer Early

Researchers at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at John Hopkins say they have developed a single blood test that detects eight types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer. The researchers applied the test to 1,005 patients with non-metastatic, clinically detected cancers of the ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, colorectum, lung, or breast.

When cancerous tumors form, they release small fragments of mutated DNA and proteins into the bloodstream, and these can act as markers for cancer.

No wonder then that a study of a new blood test for eight cancers has caused such a stir. The test they developed - dubbed CancerSEEK - examines the levels of 8 proteins and the presence of mutations in 16 genes. For instance, the test found ovarian cancer 98 percent of the time, but only caught breast tumors 33 percent of the time.

-Ph.D. student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the paper's first author.

The team studied 1,005 patients who had been diagnosed with stage I to III cancers, as well as 850 healthy control individuals. It is welcome news for health professionals and doctors, who have long suggested that early detection is the key when beating cancer.

However, where there are proven screening tests that lead to earlier diagnosis and better outcomes, such as colonoscopy screening for bowel cancer, these are typically unpleasant.

"The ultimate goal of CancerSEEK is to detect cancer even earlier - before the disease is symptomatic", the team said. So patients in a genuine screening likely would have less propelled illness and may be more hard to test.

The test has been shown to reliably detect early stage and curable cancers.

Development of the "liquid biopsy" test is still in its early stages. Detection and localization of surgically resectable cancers with a multi-analyte blood test.

"I think this can have an enormous impact on cancer mortality", he said.

Seven of the healthy patients tested positive. For each of these tumour types there are now no screening tests available - blood based or otherwise.

And they stressed it could lead to vital early diagnoses in patients, leading to possible lifesaving treatments. "This may imply that a screening program needs to test countless to recognize one malignancy".

Richard Marais, also commented on CancerSEEK, "Detecting cancer early, before the disease has spread, is one of the most powerful ways to improve cancer survival and this interesting research is a step towards being able to do this earlier than is now possible".

In terms of specificity, the test yielded an overall result of more than 99 percent. "So the test will even now miss a vast extent of growths at the phase where we need to analyze them", he said. But that leaves 30% of cancers still undetected.

The test is estimated to cost around A$630 (U$500), which is roughly on par what people now pay to be screened.

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