Spotting the Early Signs of Cancer

How A Simple Blood Test Can Detect Eight Types of Cancer

The most frequent way in which cancers are detected is by obtaining biopsies of cells, and examining potential cancerous tissue under a microscope.

However, a new test called CancerSEEK, developed by scientists at John Hopkins University, is bringing medicine one step closer to finding common cancers such as colorectal or ovarian cancer, using only a blood sample.

CancerSEEK a Means to Finding Common Cancers Early

CancerSEEK tests for 16 DNA mutations that commonly exist in cancer, and has already been tested on approximately 1,000 patients with stages one to three cancers in various organs, including the lungs, breasts, stomach, ovaries, liver, and lung. Some of these cancers take many lives a year; for instance, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. The second in the list, meanwhile, is colorectal cancer, for which regular screening is recommended because the disease often presents no symptoms until it is at an advanced stage.

How Accurate is CancerSEEK?

Scientists are currently reporting a 70% success rate for the test, and few false positives. It reveals that checking for the presence of different molecular combinations can be an effective way of finding cancer, though its one drawback is that tests have only been carried out on patients who had already been diagnosed with cancer.

Moreover, the test was more effective when later-stage tumors were present. For stage one cancer, it was only 40% effective. The test also appears to be less predictive of lung and breast cancer and currently, it only indicates the presence of cancer; not its location.

Colorectal Cancer and CTC Testing

Similar tests have already been formulated for diseases such as colorectal cancer. A blood test called CTC (Circulating Tumor Cells) was recently tested on 620 people who were scheduled to have a routine colonoscopy. Scientists compared blood tests to the colonoscopy results, finding that the former had up to an 88% chance of accuracy, and a less than 3% chance of a ‘false positive’ result. The test shows great promise, and is conveniently priced, at less than $150. Although its aim is not to supplant routine colonoscopies, it could be used instead of standard stool tests,considering it has a higher sensitivity than current screening options.

CancerSEEK and similar tests are considered to be medical breakthroughs that could help doctors obtain a headstart in the battle against cancer. Early detection of this disease is vital to improve the chances of treatment success. Although further research is still underway, results thus are promising, suggesting this simple, inexpensive blood test could play an important role in finding cancer before the apparition of symptoms.

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