New blood test may help early detection of 8 cancers

Maricruz Casares
Enero 26, 2018

Researchers have developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of cancer...

The new approach found ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic, esophageal, colorectal, lung, and breast cancer around 70 percent of the time, on average.

The test "has the potential to be a one-stop, safe screening test for multiple tumour types that should have high community acceptance", Jeanne Tie, Associate Professor at the institute was quoted as saying.

"Hopefully in the future we can develop a blood test such as this that can be used routinely in patients, perhaps once a year, to allow them to know earlier if they have cancer and to get them treated much sooner".

Although now still being trialled, hopes are it could eventually see GP's able to offer patients blood tests to detect the disease even when no symptoms have developed, saving lives through early diagnosis.

Professor Richard Marais, a researcher at the Cancer Research UK, also relayed his opinion 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".

The blood test might help to identify the location of the cancer.

Similarly, test results pointing to colon cancer could lead to a colonoscopy.

"The test needs to be validated in a large-scale study that would evaluate tens of thousands of healthy individuals to confirm the sensitivity and specificity", Cohen said.

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While the test only detects a small subset of cancer types, many of them would likely go undetected because no current screening tests exist for them.

"Circulating tumour DNA mutations can be highly specific markers for cancer".

"One of the reasons that I am so passionate about this project is that I think it actually will make a difference to patients", said Lennon, who is also a medical professor at Johns Hopkins University. These cancers typically don't cause symptoms until they reach more advanced stages of the disease, when treatment becomes hard.

"We now need clinical trials to test its accuracy further as well as more research to work out why the test failed in 30% of patients and whether these tests can be extended to other cancers".

To precisely determine the optimal number of DNA bases to assess in the CancerSEEK test, the researchers used a method based on diminishing returns. "In fact, keeping the mutation panel small is essential to minimize false-positive results and keep such screening tests affordable". The result was a relatively small panel of highly selective DNA markers.

"This test represents the next step in changing the focus of cancer research from late-stage disease to early disease, which I believe will be critical to reducing cancer deaths in the long term", Vogelstein added. They envision that the CancerSEEK test will eventually cost less than $500.

He said: "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".

Larger studies of the test are now underway.

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