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Blood test effectively detects ten types of cancer
A blood test for ten different types of cancer could one day help doctors to identify the disease at an early stage by means of a so-called screening, even before the first symptoms appear in the patient. This could revolutionize the treatment and diagnosis of cancer.
In their current investigation, scientists from Stanford University and Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute found that a new blood test can reliably identify ten types of cancer before the first symptoms appear. The researchers published the results of their study at this year's meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists in Chicago.
What is a liquid biopsy?
The new test is also called a liquid biopsy. The test uses tiny pieces of DNA released by cancer cells in the blood to look for signs of cancer. The test showed particularly good results for ovarian and pancreatic cancer, but the number of identified cancers was still relatively small overall, the experts say.
It is important to recognize cancer early
The test is something like the holy grail of cancer research, explain the doctors. The researchers hope that the test will become part of a universal screening tool that doctors can use to effectively identify cancer in patients at an early stage. At an earlier stage, cancer is even easier to treat, emphasizes study author Dr. Eric Klein of Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute told The Guardian, a local language newspaper. A new era of personalized medicine is dawning, which will dramatically change the treatment of cancer, inheritable and rare diseases, the experts further explain.
The study had more than 1,600 participants
The study examined a total of more than 1,600 participants, of whom 749 subjects were not suffering from cancer at the time of the study. The disease had recently been diagnosed in 878 participants. The test was most accurate for diagnosing pancreatic, ovarian, liver, and gallbladder cancer, with the disease successfully diagnosed in at least four out of five patients
How accurate was the test?
The blood test found lymphoma to be 77 percent accurate. The accuracy in diagnosing a so-called myeloma was 73 percent. The test successfully diagnosed colorectal cancer in two out of three patients. Lung cancer was correctly detected in 59 percent of the patients and head and neck carcinoma in 56 percent of the patients.
More research is needed
While the results are extremely promising, further clinical investigations are needed, the authors say. The number of patients diagnosed with cancer has been low. For example, although the test detects ovarian cancer with an accuracy of 90 percent, only ten ovarian cancers were found in total, the scientists report.
Cancer is often found too late
Far too many types of cancer are diagnosed too late when it is no longer possible to operate and the chances of survival are slim, the experts say. The goal is to develop a blood test like this that can accurately identify cancers at their earliest stages, doctors add. The researchers want to develop a diagnostic tool that can be used in all people regardless of their family history. (as)