Blood Tests Could Replace Biopsies in Diagnosing Cancer
Biopsies, a gold standard for cancer detection, but one that's often costly and invasive, may soon be replaced by a simple blood test.
That prediction was made this week at the World Conference on Lung Cancer in Colorado by Eric Lim, consultant thoracic surgeon at Royal Brompton & Harefield National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust.
Biopsies cost well into the thousands of dollars, with one 2014 study showing the average price as $14,634 per patient. By contrast, the new blood test would only cost hundreds of dollars per patient, would be much quicker and considerably less-invasive. Blood tests may also offer safer standard for testing, as biopsies are carried out by specialists and can have long waiting times.
But what about the accuracy of the blood test?
Researchers at the Royal Brompton Hospital, as well as the U.K.’s National Heart and Lung Institute, used the test on 223 patients suspected of primary or secondary lung cancer and about to undergo surgery. The blood test was shown to be accurate in predicting the presence of cancer cells in 70 percent of the cases.
When cells die off, including cancer cells, DNA is released into the bloodstream. So far, the blood test is able to pick up three types of cancer-specific gene mutations, and may even be able to detect different cancer types, such as lung and colorectal cancer, that may have similar gene patterns to these common mutations.
The scientists noted that more testing is required.