'Liquid Biopsy' Screens Blood for Cancer Before Symptoms Detectable

Trials on 1,400 patients reportedly found the procedure to identify DNA markers worked with up to 90% accuracy

Trials on 1,400 patients reportedly found the procedure to identify DNA markers worked with up to 90% accuracy

Therefore, if further research proves successful and the test starts to be used, it could allow doctors to screen patients for certain kinds of cancer, potentially saving many lives.

Professor Nicholas Turner, from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, described the findings as ‘really exciting' and said that they could potentially be used for ‘universal screening'.

The test will use blood samples to search for cancer.

The tests, called liquid biopsies, screen for cancer by detecting tiny bits of DNA released by cancer cells into blood.

The findings, presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago, were based on a sample of 127 lung cancer patients and 580 healthy people.

The results to be presented at the USA medical conference are for more than 1,400 people, of whom 561 were cancer-free, with no diagnosis, while 845 had been newly diagnosed with the disease.

The test is being hailed as the "holy grail of cancer research" after a trial of about 1,600 people found it could identify DNA markers with up to 90% accuracy.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said such advances in medicine could "dramatically transform" care.

"Detecting cancer early, before it has spread is one of the most powerful ways to ensure more people are offered treatments which give them a better chance of beating the disease", said Fiona Osgun of Cancer Research UK, who was not part of the study.

The test detected 90% of ovarian, 80% of pancreatic and two thirds of bowel cancer cases (66%), according to the research.

For several different cancers, the new blood test was able to accurately detect the disease in over 80 percent of affected patients.

"This is potentially the holy grail of cancer research, to find cancers that are now hard to cure at an earlier stage when they are easier to cure, and we hope this test could save many lives", lead study author, Dr Eric Klein, told The Telegraph.

Grail's lung cancer data comes from a wider study that eventually aims to enroll 15,000 participants and cover 20 different types of cancers.

Researchers concluded that they will need to perform more clinical development. It detected 51 percent of early-stage cancers and 89 percent of late-stage cancers.

It opens the possiblity of screening to nip cancer in the bud before any symptoms manifest themselves.

It was less able to pick up stomach, uterine and early-stage low-grade prostate cancer.

The test uses whole genome sequencing.

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