A new blood test that can help in the early diagnoses of eight common cancers before they spread and risk patients' chances of survival has been developed by Australian researchers.
The blood test might help to identify the location of the cancer. They point out that this molecular test is exclusively aimed at cancer screening and, therefore, is different from other molecular tests, which rely on analysing large numbers of cancer-driving genes to identify therapeutically actionable targets.
Joshua Cohen, a leading author of the study and doctoral student from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said in a statement that, "The sort of ultimate vision is that at the same time that you are getting your cholesterol checked when you are getting your annual physical, you will also get your blood screened for cancer".
What's more, the test appears to be able to screen for five cancers for which screening tests aren't now available: ovarian, stomach, esophageal, liver and pancreatic.More news: Kate Middleton 'planning to give birth AT HOME' as due date nears
But one of the most convincing results is the possibility of detecting certain cancers in very early advanced stages.
Named CancerSEEK, the test evaluates levels of cancer proteins and the possible presence of cancer gene mutations from circulating DNA in the blood that are released by dying cancer cells. Dr. Peter Bach, a consultant at gene testing company said, "These are a good set of results". Similarly, test results pointing to colon cancer could lead to a colonoscopy.
Although now still being trialled, hopes are it could eventually see GP's able to offer patients blood tests to detect the disease even when no symptoms have developed, saving lives through early diagnosis.
It was evaluated on 1,005 patients with cancers of the ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, colorectum, lung or breast. The researchers also enrolled about 800 healthy patients without cancer to serve as a control group. The rates varied depending on the type - lower for breast tumors but high for ovarian, liver and pancreatic ones. And the more advanced the cancer, the higher the accuracy.More news: How to share Snapchat Stories with people who don't use the app
Yet as of now, the study only "lays the conceptual and practical foundation" for a cancer-screening blood test and much more research needs to be done before such a test could be widely used, the researchers wrote in the study. Independent experts see this relatively low figure as the major weakness of the test.
The CancerSEEK test is performed as a routine blood test, with the potential to be included in routine clinical practice and substantially impact patients' lives.
"Even with stage one and two combined, it appears to be around 60 percent", Thorat told Live Science.
"The last thing you'd want is a test that tells you you might have cancer if you don't", he said. It detected 33 percent of breast cancers, about 60 percent of colon or lung cancers and almost all of the ovarian and liver ones. This could either mean that the test has a 1 percent false-positive rate (in other words, it falsely points to cancer 1 percent of the time) or that the individuals do in fact have cancer that has not yet been diagnosed, Cohen said.More news: Liberals Fume At 'Worst Negotiator' Chuck Schumer After Deal To End Shutdown
CAVEATS AND NEXT STEPS: The test probably will not work as well when tested in a general population rather than those already known to have cancer, researchers say. The test is sold now in Taiwan for $500, but should cost around $150 in the US, he said.