Medicine

'Breakthrough' blood test could detect cancer years before you fall ill

'Breakthrough' blood test could detect cancer years before you fall ill

Ten types of cancer could be detected years before a person falls ill thanks to a new blood test, according to scientists.

Scientists in the United States have found a simple test can pick up early signs of cancers including breast, ovarian, bowel and lung cancer.

Professor Nicolas Turner or London's Institute of Cancer Research said he was "excited" and the research could reduce diagnosis times.

In a race for detecting, treating or curing cancer, researchers keep on discovering new ways to fight the disease that kills many people around the globe.

The liquid biopsy uses three tests to search for DNA signatures in a patient's blood that indicate the presence of various types of cancer.

The findings, presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, have been hailed by charities as a "very promising" development. Among four cancer-free people who tested positive, two women were diagnosed with ovarian and endometrial cancer months later.

Nonetheless, liquid biopsies could "dramatically reshape the way that care for cancer and other inherited diseases is delivered", says The Independent.

"Most cancers are detected at a late stage, but this "liquid biopsy" gives us the opportunity to find them months or years before someone would develop symptoms and be diagnosed".

The "comprehensive" test identified 90 percent of ovarian cancers and 80 percent of pancreatic and liver cancers.

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Dr Eric Klein told The Telegraph that the new test could help doctors "find cancers that are now hard to cure and at an earlier stage when they are easier to cure".

The best results were for ovarian cancer – diagnosing 90 % of cases – and pancreatic cancer, which had 80 % accuracy.

The methods, which look for mutations and genomic changes, were up to 89% effective in detecting late-stage lung cancers.

At the heart of the research is the hope that the test could become a "universal screening" that could be used to detect cancer in patients.

However, much more research is needed before doctors will be able to use the test on their patients, experts say.

The number of patients in whom cancers were detected was small.

It was less able to pick up stomach, uterine and early-stage low-grade prostate cancer. As for cancers of the head and neck, or lung cancer, the detection rate was only 56% and 59%.

Still, the research shows promise in a blood-based approach to future cancer screening. "Potentially this test could be used for everybody", said Klein.