A New Blood Test Could Detect Signs of 8 Kinds of Cancer

Saturday, January 20, 2018 - 11:01

Researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore have developed a new test that screens for multiple types of cancer using only a blood sample.

The research, published in Science, describes a new test called CancerSEEK, which simultaneously looks for the presence of eight different types of cancer, including lung, breast and colorectal cancers, which are together responsible for more than 60 percent of cancer deaths in the U.S., Forbes reports.

The researchers took blood samples from 1,005 people with one of the eight different cancer types, finding that CancerSEEK was able to reliably identify the tumors in 70% cases. The success rates ranged from an impressive 98% in people with ovarian tumors to only 33% in people with breast tumors.

However, the researchers are positive about the potential impact of the test. "If we are going to make progress in early cancer detection, we have to begin looking at it in a more realistic way, recognizing that no test will detect all cancers,” said Bert Vogelstein, M.D., Professor of Oncology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

The scientists also used CancerSEEK on 812 healthy people with no history of cancer to make sure the test only picked up genuine cancers. Only seven of the 812 healthy people tested were flagged as positive using CancerSEEK, with the researchers noting that they couldn't be certain whether these seven individuals were true false positives or indeed had early-stage cancer with no symptoms.

Although the results from this study are undoubtedly exciting, oncologists are keen to urge caution until the ongoing large-scale trials are completed.

J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, M.D., Deputy Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society described the CancerSEEK study as "elegant science," although he stressed, "It is important to remember that it is one thing to advance the science and the technology; however it is something entirely different to demonstrate that the test will actually make a difference in saving lives."

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