Saturday, 18 August, 2018

Blood test to 'detect cancer years before illness' hailed as major breakthrough

Rachel Hibbert and husband Jon on their wedding day Portsmouth mum-of-one who battled breast cancer prepares to take on Race for Life
Johnnie Parks | 04 June, 2018, 04:46

A blood test for 10 different types of cancers could one day help doctors screen for the disease before patients show symptoms, researchers at the world's largest gathering of oncologists have said.

In the research stage, it achieved up to 90 per cent accuracy in tests.

Among four cancer-free people who tested positive, the U.S. authors say two women were diagnosed with ovarian and endometrial cancer just months later.

It was 77% accurate in diagnosing lymphoma, 73% accurate for myeloma, and 80% accurate for liver and gallbladder cancers.

The findings represent a first look how a blood test for early-stage cancer would do at detecting lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in the United States often diagnosed at an advanced stage.

"What we're generally seeing is a strong blood-based biological signal for cancers that have a high mortality and are typically not screened for", Dr. Anne-Renee Hartman, vice president of clinical development at Grail, said in a telephone interview. Finally, it will be important to establish how good this test is at identifying patients with the earliest stage of cancer.

The cancer sites that were examined in the study did not include brain, but the study does suggest that scientific progress has been made across many different types of cancers and there is the potential to include this test as part of a routine medical screening.

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

"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", he continued.

One of the tests, which used sequencing to detect non-hereditary mutations, performed the best.

Prof Nicholas Turner from the Institute of Cancer Research in London described the findings as really exciting and as a possible universal screening tool.

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

Simon Stevens, chief executive of the National Health Service in England, said: "We stand on the cusp of a new era of personalized medicine that will dramatically transform care for cancer and for inherited and rare diseases".

'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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