Blood test detects over 50 cancers

A blood test can identify more than 50 types of cancer even at very early stages, according a study published in  Annals of Oncology.

The study used blood samples from over 6000 people, including 2482 with cancers of the anus, bladder, colon/rectum, oesophagus, head and neck, liver/bile-duct, lung, ovary, pancreas and stomach.

Assay machines were ‘trained’ to identify characteristic DNA methylation patterns from tumour DNA in the blood samples from cancer patients.

The accuracy of the machine was then tested ‘blind’ to see how effectively it could identify blood samples from cancer patients and correctly identify the tumour type.

More than 99% of positive results were accurate and the test could diagnose in which tissue the cancer originated with 93% accuracy.

The test had higher accuracy at identifying more advanced cancers. Overall, across more than 50 types of cancer, it correctly diagnosed 18% of those with stage one cancer. For stages two, three and four, the success rate rose to 43%, 81%, and 93%, respectively.

Of particular interest (given how hard it is to diagnose) the test showed a 63% success rate for those with stage one pancreatic cancer, rising to 100% for stage four patients.

Commenting on the study, Dr David Crosby, from Cancer Research UK, says: ‘Detecting cancers at their earliest stages, when they are less aggressive and more treatable, has a huge potential to save lives and we sorely need innovations that can turn this potential into reality. Although this test is still at an early stage of development, the initial results are encouraging. And if the test can be fine-tuned to be more efficient at catching cancers in their earliest stages, it could become a tool for early detection.’

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