‘Holy Grail’ Blood Test May Detect Cancer Before Tumors Form

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Scientists in the U.S. have found a simple test can pick up early signs of cancers including breast, ovarian, bowel and lung cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is usually diagnosed when the cancer is too advanced to be operated on, said Dr. Chris Abbosh, a clinical research associate at University College London's Cancer Institute. Experts were "very optimistic" that the test would transform the chances of patients with some of the most deadly cancers.

The findings will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ACSO) in Chicago this weekend. Among four cancer-free people who tested positive, two women were diagnosed with ovarian and endometrial cancer months later.

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, the chief executive of NHS England, said "new techniques" such as cancer blood tests could "unlock enormous survival gains, as well as dramatic productivity benefits in the practice of medicine".

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He said: "Many cancers are picked up too late".

The results showed that the test most accurately diagnosed ovarian cancer, with 90% accuracy, followed by hepatobiliary - a highly lethal cancer that attacks the liver and gallbladder - and pancreatic cancer, with 80% accuracy.

"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", lead researcher Dr. Eric Klein of the Cleveland Clinic said, via Tech Times.

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. Lung cancer and cancers of the head and neck trailed behind, with 59 and 56 percent detection rates.

The cancer sites that were examined in the study did not include brain, but the study does suggest that scientific progress has been made across many different types of cancers and there is the potential to include this test as part of a routine medical screening. "And, in this case applied to a high risk group to show how effective it would be in detecting cancer at its earliest stage". It detected 51 percent of early-stage cancers and 89 percent of late-stage cancers. A number of different blood tests are also now used to check out things like blood cell count, liver and kidney function, and the presence of substances produced by tumors.

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