Cancer blood tests detects 8 tumour types

Biotrial blood samples

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have taken a step towards developing a universal blood test for cancer.

The research was published on Friday in the global journal Science, and also had input from Italian researchers. By then, they're hard to treat because they've already spread.

"We are dealing with a needle in a haystack", Papadopoulos said. They point out that this molecular test is exclusively aimed at cancer screening and, therefore, is different from other molecular tests, which rely on analyzing large numbers of cancer-driving genes to identify therapeutically actionable targets. Meanwhile, invasive cancer tests are unpleasant and can be quite expensive. "To capitalize on this inherent specificity, we sought to develop a small yet robust panel that could detect at least one mutation in the vast majority of cancers". Others more recently have focused on DNA from tumors. But the PSA looks only for one kind; CancerSEEK looks looks for eight, and will also look for small pieces of DNA floating around in a person's blood.

While researchers are excited about the potential life-saving test, they call this work "a first step".

In addition to identifying the type of cancer, CancerSEEK can direct physicians toward the cancer's location in a patient's body.

In some cases, the test also provided information about the tissue-of-origin of the cancer. It was shown to accurately detect the cancer, including in 70% or more of pancreas, ovary, liver, stomach and esophageal cancers.

The Cancer Council of Australia states on their website that "treatment can be more effective when cancer is found early". The team, which is applying for patents on CancerSEEK, estimates the cost at less than $500 per sample.

These cancer sites that were examined in the study didn't include brain but the study does suggest that scientific progress has been made across many different types of cancers and there is the potential to include this test as part of a routine medical screening.

Maitra and others point to caveats, however.

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The team studied 1,005 patients who had been diagnosed with stage I to III cancers, as well as 850 healthy control individuals. Detection and localization of surgically resectable cancers with a multi-analyte blood test.

"We're anticipating pretty much everyone would be happy to have a blood test - whereas everyone is not so keen on having a colonoscopy", he said. "I think this can have an enormous impact on cancer mortality". "A test does not have to be ideal to be useful", Papadopoulos says.

Pancreatic cancer patients especially might have a better shot.

The study was funded by grants from foundations and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Development of the "liquid biopsy" test is still in its early stages. Five of these now have no viable screening method.

Cohen acknowledged that overtesting and resultant overtreatment "are certainly issues".

Professor of oncology Bert Vogelstein said that although the test does not spot every cancer, it identifies many forms that would likely otherwise go undetected.

The research is particularly exciting to the pancreatic cancer patient community as this disease is notoriously hard to detect because symptoms often emerge once it has spread. "But evaluating it in the real world will be a long process".

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