Published: Mon, June 04, 2018
Medical | By Garry George

‘Holy Grail’ Blood Test May Detect Cancer Before Tumors Form

‘Holy Grail’ Blood Test May Detect Cancer Before Tumors Form

What's exciting about the new development is that it can screen people for signs of cancer years before they show symptoms of the disease. The test correctly detected the disease in at least 4 out of 5 patients, with most accuracy in ovarian, liver, pancreatic, and gallbladder cancers.

"Now, as the NHS marks its 70th anniversary, we stand on the cusp of a new era of personalised medicine that will dramatically transform care for cancer and for inherited and rare diseases", said Stevens.

The breakthrough is expected to be officially announced at the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago this week.

The best results were for ovarian cancer – diagnosing 90 % of cases – and pancreatic cancer, which had 80 % accuracy.

According to the abstract, the test called CancerSEEK was applied to 1,005 patients with non-metastatic cancers and the sensitivities ranged from 69 to 98 percent for the detection of ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, and esophagus for which there are no screening tests available for average-risk individuals.

The test was less precise for lung, esophageal, and head and neck cancers, detecting these cancers with about 50 to 60 percent accuracy. Finally, it will be important to establish how good this test is at identifying patients with the earliest stage of cancer.

Among four cancer-free people who tested positive, the United States authors say two women were diagnosed with ovarian and endometrial cancer just months later.

Researchers also found that more than half of patients in the study had mutations in their blood that came from white blood cells, and not tumors, requiring them to develop a method to screen those out to prevent false positives.

Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, said in a previous CNN report that the analysis involved in these tests is "extraordinarily complex". But academics say it is much more sensitive than previous tests.

More than 360,000 people in the United Kingdom are diagnosed with cancer each year, meaning that one person is told they have the disease every two minutes.

Researchers hope the tests will become part of a "universal screening" tool that doctors can use to detect cancer in patients.

"Most cancers are detected at a late stage, but this "liquid biopsy" gives us the opportunity to find them months or years before someone would develop symptoms and be diagnosed".

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