A team of researchers from the University of California claim to have created a blood test that can not only detect cancer, but also its precise location.
Called CancerLocator, the test works by analysing the amount of tumour DNA that’s currently circulating through your blood.
While using blood tests to help detect cancer aren’t new, the researchers believe their test is one of the most wide-reaching available with an over 80 per cent success rate in detecting breast, liver and lung cancer.
“In general, the higher the fraction of tumor DNAs in blood, the more accurate the program was at producing a diagnostic result. Therefore, tumors in well-circulated organs, such as the liver or lungs are easier to diagnose early using this approach, than in less-circulated organs such as the breast.” explains Professor Jasmine Zhou, co-lead author from the University of California at Los Angeles.
Their research has been published in the journal Genome Biology and works by using computer software to analyse a patient’s blood.
Professor Zhou said: “We have developed a computer-driven test that can detect cancer, and also identify the type of cancer, from a single blood sample. The technology is in its infancy and requires further validation, but the potential benefits to patients are huge.”
To do this the researchers first taught the software to recognise an ‘all-clear’ sample, and then using a vast database of previous markers, taught it to recognise the different types of tumour DNA that could be found in the blood.
“Non-invasive diagnosis of cancer is important, as it allows the early diagnosis of cancer, and the earlier the cancer is caught, the higher chance a patient has of beating the disease.” said Professor Zhou.
Experts remain cautious about the optimistic prediction that it will be available to the public within a year.
Speaking to the Independent, Professor Paul Pharoah from the University of Cambridge said: “If you were going to use this test as a screening test – ie to detect cancer in otherwise healthy people – it would need to be evaluated as a screening test. Any study of any screening modality takes years to do,”
He went on to point out that to validate the system the trial would need to include hundreds of thousands of people over a considerable number of years.