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Blood test finds cancer before symptoms start

18 August 2017

Though there's room for improvement on its accuracy, more than a handful of patients accurately had cancer identified in their bodies through the test. Nevertheless, it's the first time doctors perform this test to find it on early stages.

The team says that the populations who could benefit most from such a DNA-based blood test are those at high risk, such as women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast-cancer genes and smokers, for whom standard computed tomography scans often lead to false positives. Further studies still need to be done to replicate the results across larger numbers of people, but the proof-of-concept is a promising step forward in finding a simple, non-invasive way to identify early-stage cancers, and potentially offer beneficial treatment before the tumors grow too large.

A blood test that distinguishes tumor DNA from altered non-tumor DNA detected cancer-related mutations in more than half of patients with early-stage malignancies, an worldwide research team reported.

The hard part was trying to separate the desired DNA altered by the disease, and any other kind of genetic malformations. About 20,000 men were tested, and 1,112, or 5.5 percent, had viral DNA. Of those, 309 had confirmation tests a month later, and 34 turned out to be positive for cancer after MRIs and endoscopies. After endoscopy and MRI exams, 34 turned out to have cancer. If successful, these could become alternatives to colonoscopies, mammograms and other cancer tests.

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Allergist Dr. Ulf Hierlwimmer on the Thursday, Aug. 17 edition of WHTC's Talk of the Town said that with the Affordable Care Act on the cusp of ruin, insurance companies, patients, and the federal government should all ban together to fund research for this life-saving test.

The researchers at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Centre have successfully discovered a test that can actually detect the tiny bits of DNA from dying tumor cells released from the patient's blood.

Of 71 people with lung cancer, the test found 45% with stage I disease, 72% with stage II disease, 75% with stage III disease and 83% with stage IV cancer. They then studied blood samples from 200 patients with breast, lung, ovarian and colorectal cancer. They noted 58 genes that are typically associated with these cancers.

Acknowledging that "a lot of work in liquid biopsies in general" is ongoing, Velculescu pointed to distinguishing features of the study. Image Credit: Qiagen / Journal Sentinel. Some of these are now being used to monitor cancer patients, and many other companies are trying to develop the technology for screening, CBS News reports.

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The research addressed both of these limitations in the earlier methods and enabled the use of this technique for cancer detection in early cases. "We are brick by brick putting that technology into place".

Several different cancer detection blood tests are now in development around the world and each has its own novel detection method.

Due to the vast amount of infected DNA cells presented in the blood, it's trivial for scientists to identify if a patient has cancer.

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Blood test finds cancer before symptoms start