Cancer breakthrough could pave the way for a universal blood test

A Cheap and Easy Blood Test Could Catch Cancer Early

'Liquid biopsy' promises early detection for cancer

Led by the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, the research project has led to the creation of a test that can screen for eight common cancer types, which account for more than 60 percent of USA cancer deaths.

"While screening tests for some cancers have already been developed, and are associated with earlier diagnosis and better outcomes, for many major tumour types there are no effective screening tests", he said.

Still, others working on liquid biopsies say that it will take time to figure out whether widespread screening of healthy people with a universal blood test can reduce cancer deaths without doing harm.

The hope is it can complement other screening tools such as mammograms for breast cancer and colonoscopies for colorectal cancer.

In other cases, the test also gave information about the tissue that the cancer had originated from - a feat the team said has been hard in past. It did less well at the very earliest stage.

"Because the same gene mutations drive multiple tumor types, liquid biopsies based on genomic analysis alone generally can not identify the anatomical location of the primary tumor", the authors write. "...we searched for the minimum number of short amplicons that would allow us to detect at least one driver gene mutation in each of the eight tumor types evaluated", the researchers write. The new result could put the team, led by Nickolas Papadopoulos, Bert Vogelstein, and others at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, among the front-runners. "The more DNA bases you assay, the more mutations you are capable of finding, but eventually you reach a point of diminishing returns", explains Cohen.

The screening was created to identify eight different types of cancer.

There was also a one per cent "false positive" rate with the blood test, which could be a concern for population screening, he added.

But the study, which involved 1,005 patients with pre-diagnosed cancer, detected their disease with an accuracy rate of about 70 percent overall. "The sensitivity for the stage I cancers in the study was only 40%". While it could detect ovarian cancer 98 percent of the time, it successfully diagnosed breast cancer only 33 percent of the time.

Some of the cancer screening tests that already exist, he said, now reduce the risk of death by up to 50 per cent.

He said it could be a great step towards early detection of the disease and ultimately save lives.

While the test can also give clues about the position of the tumors in the body, it's not always correct.

Researchers say the test could cost around $500 based on current materials and methods, but the ultimate goal is to commercialize it, so what a company would charge is unknown. Only seven of these participants' had a blood test showing positive for these cancers.

A portion of the blood tests at present used to analyze growth incorporate finish blood tally, blood protein testing, tumor marker tests, and flowing tumor cell tests. Detecting cancer before a person even feels sick would save countless lives and improve treatment options for most patients.

Early detection could mean that doctors would be able to intervene sooner to remove tumours, before they spread, according to a report published online in the journal Science.

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