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Revolutionary universal cancer test breakthrough excites medical experts

20 January 2018

"[The test is] quite sensitive, so it's detected most of the cancers, these early stage cancers that if diagnosed later are nearly universally fatal", Professor Gibbs said.

What is more, the researchers found that their test was able to pinpoint the location of tumors for 83 percent of patients.

The blood test found signs of cancer in about 70 percent of them. The sensitivity was 69% or higher for ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic, and esophageal cancers-all types that are hard to detect early. It gave only seven false alarms when tried on 812 others without cancer. If CancerSEEK can only reliably identify advanced cancer where symptoms are already showing, it is not very useful as a screening test.

They said "liquid biopsy" - developed in the United States - would be a game changer in the fight against cancer, and hoped it could be widely available within a few years.

Some independent experts saw great promise. In fact, the test picked up only 43% of very early, stage 1 cancers.

"I'm enormously excited", he said.

The "liquid biopsy" identifies early-stage tumours from proteins and genetic variations in the blood system.

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And the researchers say the likely price of a test at $630 is relatively affordable compared with other cancer detecting examinations.

The test isn't ready for doctors' offices just yet.

CancerSEEK is able to look at comparatively few markers because it is a screening test that aims to detect the presence of cancer, rather than the specific driver mutations of a cancer, or actionable therapeutic targets. The test, which works by assessing mutations in 16 cancer genes, provided positive results for eight forms of cancer overall, including ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, colorectal, lung and breast. Prostate cancer is not included. It requires only a blood sample and may prove cheap enough for doctors to give during a routine physical.

The researchers, who dubbed the new diagnostic CancerSEEK, outlined the test in an article published Thursday in the journalScience.

The percentage of successful tests varied for different types of cancer, ranging from 98 percent in people with ovarian tumors, to 33 percent in people with tumors of the breast. It did better when tumors were larger or had spread.

But in principle, CancerSEEK offers a way to simultaneously screen for multiple early stage tumors.

For those who test positive twice, the next step will be imaging to find the tumor.

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The study was funded by grants from foundations and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

For many cancers, diagnosis is a long and challenging process.

Researchers say they hope it will be available for less than $500 (around €408) following further studies.

For the blood test approach utilized as a part of the new examination, the scientists joined surveying levels of coursing proteins in the blood and changes in without cell DNA.

At present, no blood-based tests are in like manner clinical use for prior discovery of those growths, the specialists noted in their investigation. Researchers plan to follow those participants for five years.

But Professor Gibbs said they expected the cost to come down over time as the technology progressed and the number of people being tested rose.

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Revolutionary universal cancer test breakthrough excites medical experts