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Liquid biopsy test offers hope for ten cancers

4 June 2018
Appeared in BioNews 952

A new blood test which can detect ten cancers at an early stage is offering hope as a way to screen for multiple cancers.

'This is potentially the holy grail of cancer research, to find cancers that are currently hard to cure at an earlier stage when they are easier to cure,' Dr Eric Klein, lead author of the research at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio told The Guardian newspaper. 'We hope this test could save many lives.'

Results from a study on the so-called 'liquid biopsy' test were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois.

The test detects fragments of tumour cfDNA, shed into a patient's bloodstream. The researchers collected blood samples from 878 patients with newly-diagnosed and untreated cancer and 749 controls (with no cancer diagnosis). There were about 20 different cancer-types of all different stages of severity among the diagnosed patients.

Dr Klein's team developed three detection tests based on sequenced DNA from the samples. The test with the highest specificity, was able to detect ten cancers including colorectal, pancreatic, ovarian cancers and lymphoma.

Crucially, the test was able to pick up cancers at early stages. The hope is that by detecting cancers earlier, more patients could be treated successfully.

'Far too many cancers are picked up too late, when it is no longer possible to operate and the chances of survival are slim,' Professor Nicholas Turner at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, who was not involved in the study told The Guardian. 'The goal is to develop a blood test, such as this one, that can accurately identify cancers in their earliest stages.'

The authors said work on developing a multi-cancer cfDNA test for people with no symptoms is ongoing.

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