'Breakthrough' blood test could detect cancer years before you fall ill

Niraparib

Niraparib

Now, researchers at the world's largest gathering said a new technique of blood test could let doctors screen for cancers before patients show any kind of symptom.

"Far too many cancers are picked up too late, when it is no longer possible to operate and the chances of survival and slim", he said.

"This is potentially the holy grail of cancer research, to find cancers that are now hard to cure at an earlier stage when they are easier to cure", said lead study author Dr Eric Klein, from the Cleveland Clinic's Taussig Cancer Institute, in Ohio. "We need more and more and more samples" to determine the true accuracy of the test.

The test was most accurate for diagnosing pancreatic, ovarian, liver and gallbladder cancers, correctly finding the diseases in at least four out of five patients.

Scientists from the Stanford University, who also contributed to the study, attended the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists in Chicago. 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.

Study leader Dr. Eric Klein from the Cleveland Clinic, said: "This blood test detected multiple cancers at various stages with high specificity, indicating this approach is promising as a multi-cancer screening test".

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Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said such advances in medicine could "dramatically transform" the tools doctors use to screen cancer. In the soon-to-be presented research, the team sampled 1,627 volunteers, 749 of which did not have cancer and 878 that had various types of newly detected not yet treated cancer, CNN reported.

The test detected 90 per cent of ovarian, 80 per cent of pancreatic and two thirds of bowel cancer cases (66 per cent), according to the research.

Between them, these diseases account for more than half of the cancer patients in the country.

The cancer sites that were examined in the study did not 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.

The test uses whole genome sequencing.

While the blood test is still in the early phases of development, and still required more work, researchers were positive about the results. Finally, it will be important to establish how good this test is at identifying patients with the earliest stage of cancer.

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