A team of researchers have successfully taken the first few steps toward developing a new kind of blood test that detects not just one type of cancer but eight — impressively even before the host notices any symptoms.
The team at Johns Hopkins University has experimented with an innovative blood test method that can determine whether a person might have common types of cancer.
UK officials said the development is "enormously exciting," as BBC reports.
Blood Test To Detect Cancers?
As published in the Science, the researchers eventually want to launch an annual $500 test designed to screen cancer early when it's in its earliest stages and more treatable. However, they have a long way to go.
How can a simple blood test detect signs of cancer? Nickolas Papadopoulos, an oncology and pathology professor at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, worked with several colleagues at the school to develop the blood test, which involves two methods fused into one.
The test, called CancerSEEK, detects eight of the most common types of cancer: breast, colon, pancreas, liver, lung, stomach, esophagus, and ovary. They sought more than a thousand people who have been diagnosed with the aforementioned cancers. The test was able to find sings of cancer in 70 percent of them.
CancerSEEK attempts to find mutations in 16 genes that typically arise in cancer and eight proteins that are often released in the bloodstream.
"This field of early detection is critical, and the results are very exciting," said Cristian Tomasetti from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "I think this can have an enormous impact on cancer mortality."
Indeed it can. Presently, five of the eight cancers mentioned above have no early detection methods, making it hard for an individual to pinpoint whether a seemingly benign ache in certain regions of their body is a sign of cancer or not. In fact, pancreatic cancer exhibits so few symptoms and is usually detected when it's almost too late that four out of five patients die within the year of their diagnosis.
"This is of massive potential," said Gert Attard, a team leader at the Institute of Cancer Research's Centre for Evolution and Cancer. "I'm enormously excited. This is the Holy Grail — a blood test to diagnose cancer without all the other procedures like scans or colonoscopy."
It should be noted, however, that the test was successful only about 40 percent of the time when it came to testing patients who had the earliest stage 1 cancers. The number, while still a staggering milestone, means that the test fails to detect cancer more often than it finds it.
The researchers are already preparing for the next step in their experiment: administering the blood test to people who haven't been diagnosed with cancer and have not shown any symptoms.