Blood test could detect cancer years before patient falls ill

Pearl Mccarthy
June 2, 2018

"To match the promise of being able to screen for cancer, this test must be able to identify patients who do not have symptoms or signs of cancer".

Dr. Eric Klein from the Taussig Cancer Institute at Cleveland Clinic in the United States led the research, which is to be presented at the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, the largest gathering of oncologists worldwide.

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.

The tests, called liquid biopsies, screen for cancer by detecting tiny bits of DNA released by cancer cells into blood. Test results can be expected in about two weeks from when a patient gave a blood sample, The Independent reported.

The authors, led by Cleveland Clinic in OH, will present their findings at the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, and hope the test could be available within five to 10 years for healthy people who are cancer-free. Experts were "very optimistic" that the test would transform the chances of patients with some of the most deadly cancers. An Israeli lab tech holds human blood samples.

"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", said Dr Eric Klein, lead author of the research from Cleveland Clinic's Taussig Cancer Institute. The biopsy was reportedly most effective in detecting pancreatic, ovarian, liver, and gallbladder cancers, which are much more hard to treat if not diagnosed early. While it detected ovarian cancer with 90 percent success rate, for example, only 10 instances of this type of cancer were detected throughout the testing period.

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It can now detect ovarian, pancreatic, liver, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, colorectal, esophageal, lung, head and neck, and breast cancers, but it works best for ovarian and pancreatic forms of the disease.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said "new techniques" such as cancer blood tests could "unlock enormous survival gains, as well as dramatic productivity benefits in the practice of medicine". It detected 51 percent of early-stage cancers and 89 percent of late-stage cancers.

The more aggressive forms of cancers, triple-negative breast, lung, oesophagus, head and neck, were also picked up with more than 50% accuracy.

"This particular test is really exciting but it is likely to be a few years before it is ready for clinical use".

Gerhardt Attard, John Black Charitable Foundation Endowed Chair in Urological Cancer Research at University College London, believes that this may soon become a common method for cancer screening.

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