Scientists from the John Hopkins University in America have developed a blood test, called CancerSEEK, which can detect 8 types of cancer. In a study published in the journal Science, 1005 patients with cancer that had not spread were given the blood test, it was able to detect around 70% of the cancers. The test detected 33% of breast cancers, 60% of colon and lung cancers, 69-98% of pancreatic, stomach and esophageal cancers and all of the ovarian and liver cancers. Ovarian and pancreatic cancers may grow for some time before people are aware of any symptoms so early detection could improve the survival rate.
The test looks for mutations in 16 genes and 8 proteins that are commonly elevated in cancer sufferers.
Dr Tomasetti from John Hopkins University told the BBC ” Finding tumours when they can still be surgically removed would be a “a night and day difference” for survival, this field of early detection is critical and the results are very exciting, I think this can have an enormous impact on cancer mortality. We envision a blood test we could use once a year”.
De Gert Attard, from the Centre for Evolution and Cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research London told the BBC “This is of massive potential, I’m enormously excited, this is the Holy Grail, a blood test to diagnose cancer without all the other procedures like scans or colonoscopy.”
The test is predicted to cost less than $500, approximately £360.
The test is nowhere near ready for use yet and more work needs to be carried out to assess the effectiveness of detecting early stage cancers. The test is now being trialled on the general population in people who have not been diagnosed with cancer.