Developing a blood test for cancer detection is a huge advance towards the survival rates of cancer. Early detection is key to preventing the disease from spreading and greatly impacts mortality rates. In an exciting progression towards this, scientists at John Hopkins University have developed a blood test that, if successful, could be used nationwide.
The CancerSEEK test looks for mutations in DNA and proteins, which tumours release traces of into the bloodstream. In a trail on 1,005 cancer patients, 70% of cancers where found. The patients tested had cancers in the ovary, stomach, liver, esophagus, colon, lung, pancreas or breast- but had not yet spread to other tissues.
It will now be moved on to be tested who haven’t been diagnosed with cancer, which is the real test of its effectiveness. If successful, it will have a huge impact on mortality, with five of the eight cancers investigated currently having no screening programmes for early detection.
According to one doctor from the University, Dr. Tomasetti, being able to detect those cancers early and remove tumours while still able would be ‘a night and day difference’ for survival. He also added that the team envisions a blood test that could be used once a year.
While the test still needs more research to understand its usefulness, Dr. Gert Attard -team leader in the Centre for Evolution and Cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research- told the BBC:
‘I'm enormously excited. This is the Holy Grail - a blood test to diagnose cancer without all the other procedures like scans or colonoscopy.’
However, there is doubt about what the future holds even if the test proves worthwhile. Some of the treatments for cancer can be considered more life-altering than living with the initial, non-life-threatening cancer. Regardless, with early detection being so important, the ability to treat cancer early if necessary and monitor it closely in future is groundbreaking.
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