Scientists have developed a revolutionary blood test which can detect cancer up to ten years before symptoms emerge.
The finger-prick test searches for mutations in red blood cells and returns results in just a couple of hours, the Telegraph reported.
Researchers at Swansea University believe it could save millions of lives, reduce NHS costs and be available to patients within the next decade.
The Telegraph reported that Dr Hasan Haboubi, a member of the research team, told the British Science Festival the test could identify very early signs of cancer:
“We found (precancerous) patients do push up a little bit higher towards the cancer levels (on the test). We know that those patients almost inevitably develop cancer within 10 years.”
The test costs just £35 and could catch cancer at a stage when it can be treated with surgery alone, removing the need for chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
The scientists have primarily been trialling the test on patients with cancer of the oesophagus, which is often diagnosed late and has very low survival rates.
But the team is now also beginning trials on patients with pancreatic cancer.
Professor Gareth Jenkins, who is leading the study, explained in a statement: “The test detects changes, known as mutations, in red blood cell surface proteins. These sugary proteins act as “Velcro” to stick cell recognition proteins to the cell surface. In mutated cells, the “Velcro” is missing and so the cells are “naked” for the protein of interest.
“Staining cells with fluorescent antibodies for the cell recognition proteins identifies normal from mutated cells which allows a mutant cell frequency to be calculated per person.”
The team is now conducting a validation study to ensure the test doesn’t miss cancer or present false positives, the Telegraph reported.