Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Blood test to 'detect cancer years before illness' hailed as major breakthrough

Representational Image Representational Image
Anna Jefferson | 04 June, 2018, 04:42

Promising new research enables scientists to use a blood test to screen for different types of cancers at early stages.

"Detecting cancer early, before it has spread is one of the most powerful ways to ensure more people are offered treatments which give them a better chance of beating the disease", said Fiona Osgun of Cancer Research UK, who was not part of the study.

Lead author Geoffrey Oxnard, associate professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston, said: "We're excited that initial results from the CCGA study show it is possible to detect early-stage lung cancer from blood samples using genome sequencing".

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. Findings of the study are scheduled to be disclosed during the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ACSO) meeting this weekend, in Chicago.

Among four cancer-free people who tested positive, the USA authors say two women were diagnosed with ovarian and endometrial cancer just months later. For example, although the test was able to detect ovarian cancer with 90% accuracy, only ten ovarian cancers in total were detected, The Guardian reports.

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"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.

For blood cancers lymphoma and myeloma, it was 77 and 73 per cent accurate, while correctly diagnosing two-thirds of people with bowel cancer.

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.

Dr. Klein says the procedure still needs more testing but suggested that this "holy grail" could eventually become a standard screening method for people as they age. It detected 51 percent of early-stage cancers and 89 percent of late-stage cancers. Lung cancer was detected in 59% of patients.

While the blood test is still in the early phases of development, and still required more work, researchers were positive about the results. "Potentially this test could be used for everybody", said Klein.

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