Blood Test Detects Cancer Months to Years Before Patients Have Any Symptoms

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A blood test that can detect 10 types of cancer potentially years before someone becomes ill has been described as the "holy grail" of cancer research.

"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, and we hope this test could save many lives", lead author Eric Klein, an oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic in OH, tells The Telegraph.

Professor Nicolas Turner of the London's Institute of Cancer Research said he was "excited" and the research could reduce diagnosis times.

Together, the three tests were able to detect 10 dfferent types of cancer, including colorectal, esophageal, lung, pancreatic, and ovarian.

The authors, led by Cleveland Clinic in OH, will present their findings at the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, and hope the test could be available within five to 10 years for healthy people who are cancer-free. The test had particularly good results for ovarian and pancreatic cancers.

The test is called liquid biopsy and it's being hailed as the "holy grail of cancer research".

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The test was administered on 749 cancer-free patients and 878 with newly diagnosed but untreated cancer.

Between them, these diseases account for more than half of the cancer patients in the country.

Tests for lymphoma and myeloma were slightly less accurate, with 77 and 73 percent detection rates, respectively. It detected head and neck cancer in 56% of patients, lung cancer in 59% of patients, and bowel cancer in 2 out of 3 patients.

"The vast majority of medical practice is based upon chief complaint", meaning a patient's first report that's something's wrong, Takabe said, adding, "The excitement about these liquid biopsies is, can we screen people who have absolutely no symptoms, no complaints" but have something in their blood that could hint at cancer?

That study was carried out in a trial comprising of more than 1,600 people. According to The Telegraph, the UK's National Health Service (NHS) could start using the blood test within the next five years, but some state that figure is overly ambitious. Stevens tells The Guardian "new techniques" such as cancer blood tests could "unlock enormous survival gains", for cancer patients. "And, in this case applied to a high risk group to show how effective it would be in detecting cancer at its earliest stage".

The researchers stress further clinical development is needed.

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