Published: Mon, June 04, 2018
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Blood test offers hope of detecting cancers before symptoms develop

Blood test offers hope of detecting cancers before symptoms develop

A new blood test which scientists say is able to detect certain types of cancer several years before a person falls ill has been hailed as a breakthrough.

Doctors say it opens the possibility of treatment for cancers that are often hard or impossible to cure because they can not be detected early enough, saving more lives, and slashing medical costs.

Gerhardt Attard, of the John Black Charitable Foundation Endowed Chair in Urological Cancer Research at University College London, told CNN that if research continues at this rate, he believes it could become a common part of cancer diagnosis in as little as five to 10 years. "We hope this test could save many lives".

In addition, the study included patients who had already been diagnosed with cancer, so more studies are needed to investigate whether the test can detect cancer in its earliest stages, before people are typically diagnosed with the disease.

Dr. Eric Klein from the Taussig Cancer Institute at Cleveland Clinic in the United States led the research, which is to be presented at the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, the largest gathering of oncologists worldwide.

Three sequencing techniques, analysing cell-free DNA in the blood, were between 38% and 51% accurate at detecting early-stage lung cancers, the research found.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said the test has the potential to "unlock enormous survival gains" across the NHS.


The test was administered on 749 cancer-free patients and 878 with newly diagnosed but untreated cancer.

They'd also need more test subjects, as the sample sizes were on the small side for a study of this type. Until now, the blood tests can detect ovarian and pancreatic cancer.

It was 77 per cent accurate in diagnosing lymphoma, 73 per cent accurate for myeloma, and 80 per cent accurate for liver and gallbladder cancers. Head and neck cancer was detected in 56% of patients.

"To match the promise of being able to screen for cancer, this test must be able to identify patients who do not have symptoms or signs of cancer".

Grail's lung cancer data comes from a wider study that eventually aims to enroll 15,000 participants and cover 20 different types of cancers. It detected 51 percent of early-stage cancers and 89 percent of late-stage cancers.

Brain tumours are very complex and have unique properties, hence further work will be required to determine whether this current test may be useful.

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