Blood test holds promise of early detection for 50 types of cancer

  • Date: 31 March 2020

A NEW blood test has the potential to detect more than 50 types of cancer as well as their location within the body, says researchers.

The test uses DNA sequencing to identify the presence cell-free DNA from specific cancerous cells entering the bloodstream upon cell death. In the study, investigators analysed 6,689 blood samples, including 2,482 from people diagnosed with cancer and 4,207 from people without cancer. The samples from patients with cancer represented more than 50 cancer types.

The researchers report that the test was over 99 per cent accurate in detecting that cancer was present and it correctly identified the organ or tissue where the cancer originated in more than 90 per cent of cases.

Dr Geoffrey Oxnard of the Dana-Faber Cancer Institute, co-lead author of the study, said: “The results of this study suggest that such assays could be a feasible way of screening people for a wide variety of cancers.”

“Our results show that this approach to testing cell-free DNA in blood can detect a broad range of cancer types at virtually any stage of the disease, with specificity and sensitivity approaching the level needed for population-level screening. The test can be an important part of clinical trials for early cancer detection.”

The study was funded by Grail, the maker of the blood test, and involved researchers from Dana-Farber and Harvard Medical School, working with UK colleagues from The Francis Crick Institute and University College London. It was published online in Annals of Oncology.

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