New blood test offers hope of finding cancers before symptoms develop

Ebony Scott
June 4, 2018

A blood test could one day save millions by allowing doctors to screen for cancer before patients show symptoms.

In a race for detecting, treating or curing cancer, researchers keep on discovering new ways to fight the disease that kills many people around the globe. "This blood test was better at picking up certain cancers than others so we need further trials to test its accuracy and also determine whether it will help save lives", said Osgun.

However, much more research is needed before doctors will be able to use the test on their patients, experts say. One of the issues is the blood-brain barrier that protects the brain.

The blood test looks for fragments of DNA that have been released into the blood by quickly developing cancer cells.

Takabe noted that although the study included more than 1,600 patients, the number of patients with some types of cancers was quite small - for example, only about 10 patients in the study had ovarian cancer - which is another limitation of the study.

All three tests identified lung cancers with a low rate of false positives.

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The research scrutinised the cases of more than 1,600 people, 749 of whom were cancer-free at the time of the study, with no diagnosis, and 878 of whom had been newly diagnosed with a disease. Klein and his fellow researchers plan on presenting their findings to the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago. It detected 51 percent of early-stage cancers and 89 percent of late-stage cancers.

Currently, for cancer, there is just one blood test available to diagnose people before they find a lump or initial symptom.

"This is potentially the holy grail of cancer research, to find cancers that are now hard to cure at an earlier stage when they are easier to cure, and we hope this test could save many lives", lead author Eric Klein, an oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic in OH, tells The Telegraph.

It is part of a new generation of "liquid biopsies" which have advantages for early detection of cancer over traditional biopsies which remove tissue, such as part of the breast or lung, from someone's body.

Prof Nicholas Turner from the Institute of Cancer Research in London described the findings as really exciting and as a possible universal screening tool.

"In particular, new techniques for precision early diagnosis would unlock enormous survival gains, as well as dramatic productivity benefits in the practice of medicine".

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