Blood test could detect cancer years before patient falls ill

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Experts were "very optimistic" that the test would transform the chances of patients with some of the most deadly cancers.

The test is called liquid biopsy and it's being hailed as the "holy grail of cancer research".

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. The tests, once complete, are expected to produce results for patients within two weeks of taking them.

"This is potentially the holy grail of cancer research, to find cancers that are now hard to cure at an earlier stage when they are easier to cure", lead researcher Dr. Eric Klein of the Cleveland Clinic said, via Tech Times.

Cirina's co-founder David Lo was the first scientist to detect free-floating fetal DNA in the blood of a pregnant woman, kicking off the push to use gene sequencing to find fetal abnormalities, and then cancer, in the blood.

The study examined 749 people without cancer and 878 who had been newly diagnosed with the disease, but not yet been treated.

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. Lung cancer was correctly detected in 59% of patients, while head and neck cancer was detected in 56% of patients.

The test screens for cancer by detecting tiny fragments of DNA released by cancer cells into the blood. "The goal is to develop a blood test, such as this one, that can accurately identify cancers in their earliest stages".

Some researchers have criticized the idea of liquid biopsies because it's unclear whether catching cancer very early would indeed prolong a person's life, Takabe noted.

"This test could be used for everybody, regardless of their family history". 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.

Klein added: "It is several steps away and more research is needed, but it could be given to healthy adults of a certain age, such as those over 40, to see if they have early signs of cancer".

The wonder-test could be in use in just a few years time but comes with a hefty price tag.

The best results were for ovarian and pancreatic cancer, diagnosing 90 and 80 per cent of people with these diseases.

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