American researchers have hopes a new blood test they have developed may in the future be able to detect 10 types of cancer potentially years before someone becomes unwell.
The research team, with scientists from Cleveland Clinic's Taussig Cancer Institute and Standford University, say their test has been shown to pick up early signs of cancers including breast, ovarian, bowel and lung cancer. However, they note more work is needed before the results are conclusive and before the test can be used in the real world.
In the research, about 1,600 patients were tested with the procedure, of whom 749 were cancer-free, and 878 were newly diagnosed. The test found early warning signs of cancer with accuracy of more than 50 per cent, but the results varied depending on cancer type.
The best results were for ovarian cancer (diagnosing 90% of people with this disease) and pancreatic cancer (80%). The test results for triple-negative breast cancer were 58 per cent.
The study authors are presenting their findings at the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.
Dr Eric Klein, lead author of the research from Cleveland Clinic's Taussig Cancer Institute, said: "This is potentially the holy grail of cancer research, to find cancers that are currently hard to cure at an earlier stage when they are easier to cure. We hope this test could save many lives.”
"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."
The scientists hope to have the test available within a few years, after more research has taken place.
The test is a liquid biopsy which is less intrusive than a traditional biopsy, and detects DNA released by cancer cells into the blood.
Cancer Research UK says having a simple blood test that can detect multiple types of cancer before symptoms occur is an exciting idea, and researchers are pursuing that, but the research has not reached that goal yet.
The organisation says that, while the experimental blood test can detect different cancers in some people who have already been diagnosed with those cancers, the test also missed some of these cancers.
BCAC agrees that while the goal of a simple blood test that works is both exciting and highly desirable, it remains some way off, and larger studies are needed.
* Aspects of this article have drawn from The New York Post, and British newspapers The Guardian, The Independent and The Daily Mail.
5 June 2018