New blood test could be the ‘holy grail of cancer research’

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It works by picking up fragments of DNA released into the blood by fast-growing cancer cells, the Daily Mail reports.

"This is a very promising study", said Dr. Kazuaki Takabe, the Alfiero Foundation endowed chair in breast oncology at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York, who was not involved with the study.

It detected genetic traces of multiple cancers, including breast, pancreatic and ovarian, according to the study led by Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, US.

"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", says Dr. Eric Klein of Cleveland Clinic's Taussig Cancer Institute.

The non-invasive DNA blood test isn't yet ready to use in practice, but the test would enable cancers to be detected in the early stages, before symptoms begin, when treatment is more likely to succeed.

The research scrutinised the cases of more than 1,600 people, 749 of whom were cancer-free at the time of the study, with no diagnosis, and 878 of whom had been newly diagnosed with a disease. The tests, once complete, are expected to produce results for patients within two weeks of taking them. While it detected ovarian cancer with 90 percent success rate, for example, only 10 instances of this type of cancer were detected throughout the testing period.

Four out of five people were also successfully diagnosed with liver and gall bladder cancers.

It can now detect ovarian, pancreatic, liver, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, colorectal, esophageal, lung, head and neck, and breast cancers, but it works best for ovarian and pancreatic forms of the disease.

However, it was less effective at detecting stomach, uterine and early-stage prostate cancer, the authors said.

Nevertheless, researchers aim to develop a tool that could be used by for all people regardless of their family history.

"More research is needed but it could be given to healthy adults of a certain age, such as those over 40, to see if they have early signs of cancer".

The test uses whole genome sequencing.

"What we're generally seeing is a strong blood-based biological signal for cancers that have a high mortality and are typically not screened for", Dr. Anne-Renee Hartman, vice president of clinical development at Grail, said in a telephone interview.

Nicholas Turner from London's Institute of Cancer Research said, via The Guardian.

"Far too many cancers are picked up too late, when it is no longer possible to operate and the chances of survival are slim", Prof.