New blood test could help detect eight common cancers before they spread

Credit File  KBIA

Credit File KBIA

Those cancers include ovarian, pancreatic, stomach, liver and esophagus. It's not yet ready for the public.

Researchers at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at John Hopkins say they have developed a single blood test that detects eight types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer. Its genesis is described in a paper published Thursday in the journal Science.

The test, called CancerSEEK, uses a combination of selected biomarkers for early detection of cancers that now have no screening test.

Together, these eight forms of cancer are responsible for more than 60 percent of cancer deaths in the United States, the authors said.

U.S. and Aussie researchers say their "liquid biopsy" will be a game changer in the fight against cancer, and hope it could be widely available within a few years.

U.S. researchers are now trialling the test on 10,000 more people to examine how effective it is, as well as to help determine how much the test could cost patients in the future.

Professor Gibbs said that not many people were falsely diagnosed with cancer when they did not have it.

Professor Gibbs said the test could one day reduce the number of people dying from cancer in Australia every year.

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First, it looks for 16 telltale genetic mutations in bits of free-floating DNA that have been deposited in the bloodstream by cancerous cells. By then, they're hard to treat because they've already spread.

"The big question is going to be the cost", Gibbs said.

The test was able to detect tumours about 70% of the time on average in more than 1,000 patients with early-stage cancer. It gave only seven false alarms when tried on 812 others without cancer. If a blood test could find 98 percent of ovarian cancers at an early stage, as these early results suggest, "that would be a significant advance", he said.

"There's probably also some younger people that for various reasons, [such as] family history, might have a very risk of cancer and might want to start a little bit earlier".

The test was also trialed on 1,005 patients with diagnosed cancers at various nonmetastatic stages.

"The use of a combination of selected biomarkers for early detection has the potential to change the way we screen for cancer, and it is based on the same rationale for using combinations of drugs to treat cancers", explains senior author on the new study, Nickolas Papadopoulos.

The researchers have already launched their next study to see if the test can detect cancer in people who don't have any symptoms yet. The company said its test had an overall accuracy of 84 to 88 percent for detecting cancer or precancerous growths and a false alarm rate around 3 percent.

Professor Gibbs said it could be some years before the test becomes available in Australian clinics.

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