Home Forums Other Specialities Oncology “Liquid Biopsy” for Detecting Early Stages of Cancer

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    There is a buzz in the news media about a new research that enables scientists to screen for different types of cancers during early stages using a blood test. The test, popularly known as a liquid biopsy, is used to screen for DNA from cancer cells. It was able to detect 10 different cancers with good accuracy.

    Dr. Eric Klein from the Taussig Cancer Institute at Cleveland Clinic in the United States led the research, which is to be presented at the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, the largest gathering of oncologists worldwide. Most cancers are detected at advanced stages when treatment is more complicated and cure rates are low.

    The non-invasive DNA blood test isn’t yet ready to use in practice, but the test would enable cancers to be detected in the early stages, before symptoms begin, when treatment is more likely to succeed. These types of tests could become part of a universal screening process for cancer.

    Genetic mutations drive the growth of cancer cells, and dying cells shed some of this mutated DNA into the blood. The research sampled 1,627 participants, of whom 749 were cancer-free and 878 had various types of newly detected, untreated cancer. The blood test involved three tests on the participants’ blood samples and showed sensitivity in detecting 10 different types of cancer, including pancreatic, ovarian, lung and esophageal cancer, among others.

    The results showed that the test most accurately diagnosed ovarian cancer, with 90% accuracy, followed by hepatobiliary — a highly lethal cancer that attacks the liver and gallbladder — and pancreatic cancer, with 80% accuracy. The test’s high sensitivity to pancreatic cancer is especially promising. Pancreatic cancer is usually diagnosed when the cancer is too advanced to be operated on, said Dr. Chris Abbosh, a clinical research associate at University College London’s Cancer Institute.

    Head and neck cancer as well as lung cancer were detected with the least accuracy, at 56% and 59%, respectively.

    For many common cancers, rates of survival triple when diagnosed at an early stage. Although this test is very promising a lot more study and research will be done before it is released for general use. Gerhardt Attard, John Black Charitable Foundation Endowed Chair in Urological Cancer Research at University College London, believes that this may soon become a common method for cancer screening. He believes that the test will come in to practice in the next 5 to 10 years.

    The research was funded by Gates Foundation and Jeff Bizos

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