Researchers have developed a new blood test that may detect eight common types of cancer, including the notoriously elusive liver and pancreatic cancers. Some day, physicians may have the ability to use this method to identify cancers in their early stages before the start of symptoms thereby improving patients’ chances of successful treatment and survival.
These include 16 different cancer “driver genes” genes that are associated with tumors and eight proteins, according to the study describing the test, which was published Jan. 18 in the journal Science.
“The type of supreme vision is that in the exact same time that you are getting your cholesterol checked whenever you’re getting your annual physical, you will also get your blood screened for cancer,” said lead study author Joshua Cohen, a medical and doctoral student in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Moreover, the test appears to have the ability to monitor for five cancers for which screening tests are not currently available: ovarian, stomach, esophageal, pancreatic and liver. These cancers typically don’t cause symptoms until they achieve more advanced stages of this disease, when treatment becomes challenging.
What distinguishes the CancerSEEK evaluation from previously developed so-called “liquid biopsy” tests tests which search for markers of cancer from the blood is the use of 2 types indexes (genes and proteins) to get more accurate results across a wider range of cancers, Cohen told Live Science.
The evaluation employs an artificial-intelligence algorithm to examine the mixtures of genes and protein biomarkers found in the blood sample and determine which kind of cancer the patient likely has, Cohen said. The tool might be especially important for general practitioners, that can administer the test and send their individual for additional testing to verify the result, he explained.
For example, if the blood-test results imply stomach cancer, a physician could recommend the individual get an endoscopy to confirm the results, Cohen explained. Similarly, test results pointing to colon cancer could result in a colonoscopy.
To study how well the blood test worked, the researchers tried it on about 1,000 patients with known diagnoses of cancer which had not metastasized, or spread into other parts of the human body.
These cancers included breast, ovarian, stomach, liver, pancreatic, esophageal, colorectal and lung. The researchers also registered about 800 healthy patients with no cancer to serve as a control group.Along with the more advanced the cancer, the greater the accuracy.
However, for cancers at an early stage as an example, stage one cancers the test accurately detected cancer only 40 percent of the moment. Independent experts see this relatively low figure as the significant weakness of the evaluation.
“The sensitivity of the test in stage one cancer is quite low, about 40 percent,” explained Dr. Mangesh Thorat, deputy director of the Barts Clinical Trials Unit at the middle for Cancer Prevention in Queen Mary University of London. Thorat was not involved in the new study.
“Even with stage one and two combined, it appears to be around 60 percent,” Thorat informed Live Science. “So the test will still miss a large proportion of cancers at the stage where we want to diagnose them.”
The blood test also discovered cancer in 1 percent of the management group, according to the study. This could either mean that the test has a 1 percent false-positive speed (in other words, it points to cancer 1 percent of the time) or the individuals do in fact have cancer that hasn’t yet been diagnosed, Cohen explained.
“The test needs to be validated in a large-scale study that would evaluate tens of thousands of healthy individuals to confirm the sensitivity and specificity,” Cohen stated. “It’s really important to confirm the results and demonstrate that this test would work in a real-world” setting.
Cohen said the researchers want to increase the sensitivity and accuracy of the evaluation by adding additional kinds of biomarkers.