Researchers have developed a genetic blood test that can detect cancer at the early stage before symptoms begin to manifest, a new study suggests.
The researchers, lead by Victor Velculescu, carried out the test on 200 patients previously diagnosed with cancer, scanning their blood for DNA fragments released by cancerous tumors.
According to Velculescu, the genetic scan essentially “takes a fragment here and a fragment there and uses it to create a picture of what the tumor DNA looks like. That’s what makes it so elegant.
“By reviewing these DNA fragments for mutations found in 58 “cancer-driver” genes, the blood test detects many early stage cancers without rendering false positives for healthy people,” said Velculescu, co-director of cancer biology at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, in Baltimore, US.
Overall, researchers detected about 62 percent of stage 1 and 2 cancers.
“If we are able to detect cancer earlier, our chances of saving lives would be much higher,” Velculescu said.
“The survival difference between late-stage and early stage disease in these cancers accounts for over a million lives worldwide each year.”
Velculescu said the promising results notwithstanding, researchers need to “validate the blood test in larger studies” as “these tests were not able to detect 100 percent of the cancers.
“More work also needs to be done to improve the detection rate.”