January 21, 2019

Blood test could detect cancer years before patient falls ill

04 June 2018, 04:45 | Rodolfo Wallace

Image The drug is taken in the form of a daily pill


"Liquid biopsies" will enable doctors to screen a patient's blood for up to 10 different types of common cancers before they even start to show symptoms by picking up on DNA markers related to the disease, as well as measuring certain proteins commonly elevated when cancer is present, Voice of America reported. The biopsy was reportedly most effective in detecting pancreatic, ovarian, liver, and gallbladder cancers, which are much more hard to treat if not diagnosed early.

The test also detected pancreatic cancer with 80 percent accuracy, hepatobiliary cancer (cancer of the liver, bile duct or gallbladder) with 80 percent accuracy, lymphoma with 77 percent accuracy, multiple myeloma (a cancer of white blood cells) with 73 percent accuracy and colorectal cancer with 66 percent accuracy.

That study was carried out in a trial comprising of more than 1,600 people. One of the issues is the blood-brain barrier that protects the brain.

An experimental blood screening test from Grail Inc showed early promise in detecting early-stage lung cancers based on free-floating DNA released by tumors, according to preliminary results released on Saturday. Among four cancer-free people who tested positive, two women were diagnosed with ovarian and endometrial cancer months later. Findings of the study are scheduled to be disclosed during the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ACSO) meeting this weekend, in Chicago. It detected 51 percent of early-stage cancers and 89 percent of late-stage cancers.

The test's high sensitivity to pancreatic cancer is especially promising.

It is part of a new generation of "liquid biopsies" which have advantages for early detection of cancer over traditional biopsies which remove tissue, such as part of the breast or lung, from someone's body.

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"Detecting cancer early, before it has spread is one of the most powerful ways to ensure more people are offered treatments which give them a better chance of beating the disease", said Fiona Osgun of Cancer Research UK, who was not part of the study.

There is a "huge interest" in developing liquid biopsy for cancer, Takabe told Live Science, because the tests could have the potential to catch cancer very early.

"This is potentially the holy grail of cancer research, to find cancers that are now hard to cure at an earlier stage when they are easier to cure", says Dr. Eric Klein of Cleveland Clinic's Taussig Cancer Institute.

The wonder-test could be in use in just a few years time but comes with a hefty price tag.

"In particular, new techniques for precision early diagnosis would unlock enormous survival gains, as well as dramatic productivity benefits in the practice of medicine".

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