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Fitness & Health

19th Jan 2018

New blood test could help detect 8 different cancers before they spread

Michael Lanigan


This is the beginning of an important breakthrough.

A new non-invasive blood test is able to detect eight common cancers, a new research project has found.

The test, called CancerSEEK, could identify ovary, liver, oesophageal, pancreatic, stomach, colorectal, lung and breast cancers.

Developed by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore, Maryland, this scientific breakthrough is the first non-invasive test that can screen a wide number of cancers well in advance of their symptoms arising.

CancerSEEK was tested on 1,005 patients who had already been diagnosed with one of the eight cancers in Stages 1 – 3. In total, it was able to detect cancer in 70% of the blood samples, while also being able to anatomically locate the cancer’s whereabouts 83% of the time.

The test was still more effective at finding some forms of cancer than others, says the study published in the journal Science.

For example, the test had a 98% success rate with detecting ovarian cancer, while breast cancer’s rate was only 33%.

This, the authors claim, shows that CancerSEEK is better at detecting cancers in their later stages.

Of those who were diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer, the test was 78% successful, while Stages 1 and 2 had a success rate of 43% and 73% respectively.

“The ultimate goal of CancerSEEK is to detect cancer even earlier, before the disease is symptomatic,” the authors say.

One of the major benefits here is the fact that ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic and oesophageal cancers currently have no screening tests. CancerSEEK however, can detect these five with a sensitivity range of 69-98%.

The test searches for 16 genetic mutations in pieces of DNA that have been let into the bloodstream by cancerous cells. Each individual piece of DNA is analysed by recently developed digital technologies.

It also screens for 10 circulating protein biomarkers are often found in greater quantities in the blood of people with cancer.

At present, the test is estimated to cost less than €410 if it were to be made widely available, but this might be a few years off still.

“The goal is to look for as many cancer types as possible in one test, and to identify cancer as early as possible,” said Nickolas Papadopoulos, a professor of oncology and pathology at Johns Hopkins who led the research.

Speaking to the LA Times, he admitted, “I know a lot of people will say this sensitivity [range] is not good enough, but for the five tumour types that currently have no test, going from zero chances of detection to what we did is a very good beginning.”

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