HEALTH

Major cancer breakthrough: New blood test allows early detection

Meghalee Das
Author
Meghalee Das
Major cancer breakthrough: New blood test allows early detection

Early detection is crucial in treating cancer, and researchers in John Hopkins University have developed a blood test that could help us achieve just that. According to researchers at the University’s Kimmel Cancer Center, the new blood test could detect cancer before the first symptoms even start. The blood test could aid in detecting four of the major cancers – lung, colon, breast and ovarian cancer.

The study was published in the Journal of Science Translational Medicine, and although the test is still in the early stages and can’t be used to screen for cancer, it is at least a step in the right direction. Dr. Victor Velculescu, professor of oncology and pathology at the Johns Hopkins University Kimmel Cancer Center, said that most tests are usually for the late-stage cancer or for patients where you already know what to look for. But with this test, the “surprising result is that we can find a high fraction of early-stage patients having alterations in their blood,” he added.

The researchers used a method called error correction sequencing, that is, they scanned the blood for DNA which is released by cancerous tumors. According to the report, those have cancer have more of this DNA in their blood.

The test detected stage 1 and stage 2 cancer in 86 out of 138 patients, and was more successful in detecting late-stage cancers, although the team’s focus is to be more accurate with the early stages cases, where the disease might still be treatable and could potentially save millions of lives. This is not the only form of liquid biopsy available, but most of them are used to assess if cancer treatments are working. This blood test can predict the probable presence of cancer in someone who has not yet been diagnosed.

There is still a long way to go in comprehensive cancer detection and treatment, but considering cancer is the No. 2 killer in the U.S. (next to heart disease), any successful research results show we are on the right track.

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