Scientists closer to detecting cancer through blood test

Henrietta Strickland
January 26, 2018

A team of researchers has announced that they have developed a non-invasive test capable of detecting the presence of eight common cancers.

"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", says Prof Vogelstein.

They then evaluated the test's performance in 1,005 patients with non-metastatic ovarian cancer, ranging from early to advanced stages (I to III), and seven additional cancers - liver, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, colorectum, lung, and breast.

Researchers warn that, as of now, the test only lays a foundation for detection, but they are hopeful that detecting early-stage cancers could become easier in the future.

Blood test diagnoses eight common cancers including notoriously cagey pancreatic and liver cancers.

The test uses an artificial-intelligence algorithm to analyze the combinations of genes and protein biomarkers found in the blood sample and identify which type of cancer the patient likely has, Cohen said.

In addition to testing for the general presence of cancer, the test can hone in on the location of the cancer within the body.

For example, if the blood-test results suggest stomach cancer, a doctor could recommend the patient get an endoscopy to confirm the results, Cohen said.

These cancers account for more than 60 percent of cancer deaths in the US, the researchers noted.

The study, led by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, involved 1,005 patients whose cancer - already pre-diagnosed based on their symptoms - was detected with an accuracy rate of about 70% overall.

For the five cancers that have no screening tests-ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic and oesophageal cancers-sensitivity ranged from 69 percent to 98 percent.

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".

"Circulating tumor DNA mutations can be highly specific markers for cancer". "We designed our test to reflect this point of diminishing returns, including the DNA markers that were useful to detecting the cancers and eliminating those that did not add benefit". Independent experts see this relatively low figure as the major weakness of the test.

A new breakthrough has been recorded by some group of scientists who disclosed that the disease can now be detected earlier through a new and revolutionary blood test that can determine eight different types of the disease.

"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".

John Epling, a doctor with Carilion Clinic and the Virginia Tech School of Medicine, says a few additional steps will also be necessary before the test goes public. Nicholas Turner, professor of molecular oncology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, pointed out that the test's one percent false positive rate may sound low but "could be quite a concern for population screening".

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