Health Care

Blood test could detect cancer years before patient falls ill

Blood test could detect cancer years before patient falls ill”

The test, referred to as a "liquid biopsy", looks for small pieces of DNA that are released from cancer cells into the blood.

The authors, led by Cleveland Clinic in OH, will present their findings at the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, and hope the test could be available within five to 10 years for healthy people who are cancer-free.

'Most cancers are detected at a late stage, but this "liquid biopsy" gives us the opportunity to find them months or years before someone would develop symptoms and be diagnosed'.

"The vast majority of medical practice is based upon chief complaint", meaning a patient's first report that's something's wrong, Takabe said, adding, "The excitement about these liquid biopsies is, can we screen people who have absolutely no symptoms, no complaints" but have something in their blood that could hint at cancer?

The test is being hailed as the "holy grail of cancer research" after a trial of about 1,600 people found it could identify DNA markers with up to 90% accuracy. Of those tested, 749 were cancer-free, and 878 were newly diagnosed.

It can now detect ovarian, pancreatic, liver, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, colorectal, esophageal, lung, head and neck, and breast cancers, but it works best for ovarian and pancreatic forms of the disease.

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.

Experts say the simple check allows early diagnosis when survival chances are higher.

The more aggressive forms of cancers, triple-negative breast, lung, oesophagus, head and neck, were also picked up with more than 50% accuracy.

"When this test, or another like it, are ready for clinical use, it could be used as part of a universal screening program, with the potential to save many lives".

Nevertheless, researchers aim to develop a tool that could be used by for all people regardless of their family history.

But it was less effective at detecting stomach, uterine and early-stage prostate cancer, the authors said. While it detected ovarian cancer with 90 percent success rate, for example, only 10 instances of this type of cancer were detected throughout the testing period.

"More research is needed but it could be given to healthy adults of a certain age, such as those over 40, to see if they have early signs of cancer". Pancreatic cancer is usually diagnosed when the cancer is too advanced to be operated on, said Dr. Chris Abbosh, a clinical research associate at University College London's Cancer Institute.

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