One blood test 'can detect early signs' of eight common cancers

Scientists may be one step closer to beating cancer, with researchers developing a new blood test that has the potential to save millions of lives.

The blood test is dubbed CancerSEEK.

Developed by scientists at John Hopkins University in the U.S., in collaboration with Australian and Italian researchers, the test looks for key proteins and gene mutations that commonly arise in cancer. Accuracy was higher for certain types of tumors, like ovarian and liver cancers, than they were for breast cancer, for example.

"This is only a case-control study, and therefore needs further evaluation in large cohorts more representative of general population where such screening might be introduced".

"This is a proof-of-concept", said Dr. Anne Marie Lennon, one of the researchers on the work. I think it will.

"This is the first step", he said about the study. In contrast, the CancerSEEK test "utilizes combined assays for genetic alterations and protein biomarkers and has the capacity not only to identify the presence of relatively early cancers but also to localize the organ of origin of these cancer".

The mutated DNA and proteins are released by tumours.

Scientists have revealed that cancer can now be detected earlier by a new and revolutionary blood test that could spot eight different types of the disease. For the early detection of colon cancer, however, conventional colonoscopies are already doing a sufficient job.

"You have to detect smaller and smaller molecules that are swimming in a sea of background noise", Lichtenfeld said.

"The big question's going to be the cost", Professor Gibbs said.

Likewise, in a genuine situation, even sound patients who might be tried could have fiery or different ailments that could skew test outcomes, which wasn't seen among the solid patients in the investigation.

But much work remains. Five of these now have no viable screening method.

The average age of the patients at diagnosis was 64. The researchers applied the test to 1,005 patients with non-metastatic, clinically detected cancers of the ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, colorectum, lung, or breast.

Cancer is also one of the leading killers in Australia, killing more than 44,000 people each year.

In terms of specificity, the test yielded an overall result of more than 99 percent.

The test was best at finding ovarian cancer, which it detected up to 98 percent of the time.

Theodora Ross, director of UT Southwestern Medical Center's Cancer Genetics Program, who was not involved in the study, tempered the results somewhat, telling Axios that the patient cohort should not have included Stage III cancer patients. False positive rates need to be very low for a cancer detection tests to be considered feasible. One startup, Grail Bio, has raised over $1 billion in pursuit of a single blood test for many cancers. "It's elegant science", said Lichtenfeld. "There is a long way to go before we can actually do this".

With this in mind, they are embarking on a new study featuring 10,000 healthy individuals, hoping it will allow them to further ascertain if the test can accurately predict who ultimately develops cancer.

"Just because we're able to detect a protein, that doesn't mean we'll save everyone's life", he noted.

Professor Gibbs said the blood tests could accurately detect the early stages of cancer well before symptoms were present.

  • Joanne Flowers