Saving Early Cancer Detection Could Be Vastly Improved With New Blood Test

22 January, 2018, 02:31 | Author: Jacqueline Daniels
  • A robot processes patient blood samples for evaluation with the CancerSEEK test. Fred Dubs Johns Hopkins Medical Pathology

Papadopoulos said that they selected those eight cancers based on their frequency rate as a lot of them do not have any.

Clinical procedures to detect eight common forms of the disease have been trialed on 1,005 patients with cancers in the ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, colon, lung or breast by the John Hopkins group. One of the blood tests includes identifying proteins in blood that contain cancer.

The study was also of patients who had already been diagnosed, mostly with advanced cancer. Another issue with liquid biopsies is the ability to identify the underlying tissue of origin. "I'm not going to go to the doctor because the CancerSEEK test told me it was negative", Schiffman says.

"When we detect cancer in a different way, we can't take for granted that everyone will need treatment", Dr Attard said.

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"[The test is] quite sensitive, so it's detected most of the cancers, these early stage cancers that if diagnosed later are nearly universally fatal", Professor Gibbs said. Also, scientists analyzed the DNA of tumors to detect cancer. The study report appears in the latest issue of the journal Science and gives hope for early detection of these deadly diseases when it could still be treated more effectively. And the team members noted in their paper that because they included at least 50 of each tumor type they looked at, rare cancers, where the test performed better than average, were overrepresented. The result was a "small but robust" panel of highly selective DNA markers.

But he cautioned: "We have a long way to go to demonstrate its effectiveness as a screening test".

The study, which screened over 1,000 patients known to have cancer and 815 people presumed to be healthy, found that the test could accurately detect cancer when it existed about 70 percent of the time and accurately did not detect cancer more than 99 percent of the time.

People who have not been diagnosed with cancer are now undergoing CancerSEEK testing.

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Nicholas Turner, professor of molecular oncology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, pointed out that the test's one per cent false positive rate may sound low but "could be quite a concern for population screening". In early stage cancers, the test was found to be posive in only 40 percent of the participants.

The researchers also wanted to be able to use the test results to predict the site of a tumor. For five of these cancers, the test, called CancerSEEK, would be the first-ever screening of its kind to become available. Only seven of these participants' had a blood test showing positive for these cancers.

But scientists are excited about the possibilities offered by the test, which could offer a diagnosis even before symptoms start showing. "The more DNA bases you assay, the more mutations you are capable of finding, but eventually you reach a point of diminishing returns", explains Cohen.

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