New Liquid Biopsy Detects Cancer at Earlier Stages Than Currently Possible

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Promising new research enables scientists to use a blood test to screen for different types of cancers at early stages.

"Most cancers are detected at a late stage, but this "liquid biopsy" gives us the opportunity to find them months or years before someone would develop symptoms and be diagnosed".

Klein and his research team (Stanford University) have conducted a study, in which they found that the test could detect pancreatic, ovarian, liver, and gallbladder cancers.

The "holy grail" of cancer tests could pave the way for a universal screening programme that could save ten of thousands of lives each year.

The research examined the cases of more than 1600 people. One of the issues is the blood-brain barrier that protects the brain.

The test, referred to as a "liquid biopsy", looks for small pieces of DNA that are released from cancer cells into the blood.

The blood test found lymphoma and myeloma with slightly less accuracy, at 77% and 73%, and bowel cancer in two out of three patients.

The findings, presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago, were based on a sample of 127 lung cancer patients and 580 healthy people.

For several different cancers, the new blood test was able to accurately detect the disease in over 80 percent of affected patients.

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However, it was less effective at detecting stomach, uterine and early-stage prostate cancer, the authors said.

More than 360,000 people in the United Kingdom are diagnosed with cancer each year, meaning that one person is told they have the disease every two minutes.

It works by pinpointing DNA that has broken free of a tumor.

"There is an unmet need globally for early detection tests for lung cancer that can be easily implemented by health care systems". Doctors can remove the cancer through surgery.

He said: "Far too many cancers are picked up too late, when it is no longer possible to operate and the chances of survival and slim".

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

The liquid biopsy is not yet ready for the clinic, according to the researchers, but its development marks a significant advance in the fight against cancer, says Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England who was not involved in the study.

"In particular, new techniques for precision early diagnosis would unlock enormous survival gains, as well as dramatic productivity benefits in the practice of medicine".

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