At the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, researchers reported on a blood test that can screen for several types of cancers at early stages. Currently, many cancers progress undetected until they are fairly advanced and chances for successful treatment and cure are low. This new test can detect cancers early, before symptoms appear and when they may be more treatable.
Earlier studies on cancer testing had focused on the use of tumor DNA sequencing to diagnose cancer and detection of multiple forms of cancer with one test. This cancer blood test, called a liquid biopsy, still needs to be developed further before it can be put into practice, but to date can accurately identify 10 kinds of cancers. Because this type of test can identify DNA cells from a variety of cancers, it could become the basis for a universal cancer screening process.
The researchers reported that the test most accurately diagnosed ovarian cancer, with 90 percent accuracy. It identified pancreatic cancer, which is usually only detected in an advanced, inoperable state, with 80 percent accuracy, and also diagnosed hepatobiliary cancer, a high-mortality cancer of the liver and gallbladder, with 80 percent accuracy. The test was less accurate in detecting lung cancer (59 percent), and head and neck cancer (56 percent).
Bethany Hoffman is a Senior Editor for HealthCentral’s Cancer beat. She strives to reach health consumers on their own terms, empowering them to understand and act upon the health information that affects their lives so they can make effective, engaged choices. To do this, she is a passionate observer of how health, illness, and disability affect the human experience.