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Multiple cancers diagnosed by single blood test
February 3, 2018, 4:20 pm
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Early and correct diagnosis is a challenge in most cancer treatments. Now, researchers at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US say they have a simple and more effective diagnostic technique that has the potential to identify up to eight cancer types from one blood sample.

Early diagnosis is key to reducing cancer-related deaths; the earlier the disease is diagnosed, the higher the chances of treatment success. But sadly, many cancers are not caught until the later stages, and this is largely due to a lack of fast and effective diagnostic tools. Johns Hopkins researchers believe that their new technique labeled CancerSEEK could bring about a quicker and simpler way to detect cancer in its early stages.

Worldwide, cancer remains one of the leading causes of death and it is estimated that by 2030, the number of cancer deaths will have risen from 8 million to 13 million.

When cancerous tumors form, they release small fragments of mutated DNA and proteins into the blood-stream and these can act as markers for cancer. The new blood test works by identifying the markers for 16 gene mutations and eight proteins that are associated with eight different cancer types. These include breast, lung, and colorectal cancer, as well as for five cancers — ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic, and esophageal cancers — for which there are currently no routine screening tests for people at average risk.

For their study, the researchers tested CancerSEEK on 1,005 individuals who had been diagnosed with non-metastatic forms of one of the eight cancers. They found that the test was able to identify 70 percent of the cancers, with sensitivity ranging from 33 percent for breast cancer to 98 percent for ovarian cancer. Sensitivity ranged from 69 percent to 98 percent for the five cancers that currently have no routine screening tests, the researchers report.

In terms of specificity, the test yielded an overall result of more than 99 percent. On testing CancerSEEK on 812 healthy adults, it only produced seven false-positive results. Very high specificity was essential because false-positive results can subject patients to unnecessary invasive follow-up tests and procedures to confirm the presence of cancer. What is more, the researchers found that their test was able to pinpoint the location of tumors for 83 percent of patients.

Though larger studies will be needed to further determine the efficacy of CancerSEEK as a routine screening test for cancer, the research team believes that the results of its current research are encouraging. The team hopes that CancerSEEK will one day offer a simple, noninvasive, and fast strategy for diagnosing cancer in its early stages.
 

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