CancerSEEK finds eight kinds of tumours. About a week ago, researchers announced a new blood test for cancer that shows promise towards detection of the eight different kinds of tumours before they’ve spread elsewhere in the body. Really a hope of early detection!

Report in the Journal science said that further study is required before the test called “CancerSEEK”. The test can be made widely available for its projected cost of up to $500,

The study was led by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, involving 1,005 patients (with pre-diagnosed based on their symptoms) were detected with an accuracy rate of about 70 % overall.

Cancers had been detected in the ovaries, liver, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, colorectal, lung & breast.

For 5 of these cancer types like ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas and esophagus, there are no screening tests available for people with average risk.

The test detected these 5 with a sensitivity range of 69% to 98%.

In 83% of cases, the test was able to narrow down where the cancer was located anatomically.

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The test is noninvasive and is actually based on combined analysis of DNA mutations in 16 cancer genes & the levels of 10 circulating protein biomarkers.

The report say that the ultimate goal of CancerSEEK is detection of cancer even earlier, means before the disease is symptomatic.

Outside experts say that more research is required to uncover the true accuracy of the test, and whether it could detect cancers before they cause symptoms.

Mangesh Thorat, deputy director of the Barts Clinical Trials Unit at Queen Mary University of London says that this does look promising but with several caveats and significant amount of further research is required before we can even contemplate the way this might play out in screening settings.

The sensitivity of this test in stage I cancer is very low, about 40%, and even with stage I and II combined it does appear to be around 60%. So, still the test will miss a large proportion of cancers at the stage where we wish diagnosing them.

Nicholas Turner a professor of molecular oncology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, points out that the test’s 1% false positive rate may sound somewhat low but it could be quite a concern for population screening. There is expected a lot of people who are told they’ve cancer, who may not be having it.

However, he described the paper as a step along the way to a possible blood test to screen for detection of cancer, and the presented data is convincing from a technical perspective on the blood test.

There are many other efforts being made to develop blood tests for cancer.

Paul Pharoah, professor of cancer epidemiology at the University of Cambridge opines not to think that this new test has really moved the field of early detection far forward

“It remains a promising, but yet to be proven technology.”


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