Cancer in its various forms may soon be detected by analyzing a single blood sample, thanks to a new test developed by an international team of scientists.
According to a recent study, published in the journal, Science, the CancerSEEK test was designed to detect eight different types of the disease, including lung, breast, and colorectal cancers. These diseases make up for 60 percent of cancer deaths in the US.
In the study, researchers took blood samples from over one thousand people who were diagnosed with one of the eight cancer types. CancerSEEK was able to accurately detect tumors in 70 percent of cases. The test had a 98 percent success rate in people with ovarian tumors and 33 percent in people with breast tumors. All the tumors detected were caught before they could cause symptoms, effectively improving survival rates.
The researchers also focused on a control group to see if the test could detect the disease in 812 people with no history of cancer. Seven of the 812 participants were flagged as positive, however, the researchers couldn’t be sure if the individuals were true false positives or had early-stage cancer with no symptoms.
The proposed cost of the CancerSEEK test will reportedly be $500, cheaper than most currently available screens for single cancer types.
However, the researchers acknowledged that the test is not 100 percent accurate.
“If we are going to make progress in early cancer detection, we have to begin looking at it in a more realistic way, recognizing that no test will detect all cancers,” said Bert Vogelstein, M.D., Professor of Oncology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
To improve the test’s accuracy, the researchers sequenced specific portions of 16 genes which were known to mutate into various forms of cancer. In addition, they added eight known protein biomarkers associated with specific kinds of cancer, increasing sensitivity and thus allowing the team to better classify the tumors.