Researchers from the University of Manchester in the UK have developed a new nanoscale blood test technique for obtaining more information using blood collected from cancer patients.

The latest discovery could potentially speed up early diagnosis, drug discovery and lead to advancements in personalised medicines.

Blood samples were collected by the university scientists from women with advanced ovarian cancer who were treated with a type of chemotherapy called CAELYX over a course of 90 minutes as part of their treatment.

“The nanoscale blood test could potentially speed up early diagnosis, drug discovery and lead to advancements in personalised medicines.”

The drug is contained in a soft, lipid-based nanoparticle, called a liposome that helps reduce side effects of chemotherapy by acting as a vessel.

As part of the study, which has been funded by Cancer Research UK, scientists extracted the injected liposomes and were able to detect different biomolecules that stuck to the surface of the liposome, called the ‘biomolecule corona’.

University of Manchester lead author professor Kostas Kostarelos said: “We hope this technique could be a springboard for further research, from monitoring disease progression or recurrence to identifying which treatment is best for each patient and potentially finding new biomarkers for early diagnosis.”

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The discovery will also help develop a better technique to gather information from the blood of patients.

University of Manchester study author Dr Marilena Hadjidemetriou said: “The blood is a potential goldmine of information, but there’s a challenge to amplify cancer signals that would otherwise be buried within the ‘noise’.”

Cancer Research UK liquid biopsies expert professor Caroline Dive said: “Liquid biopsies are quicker, cheaper and less invasive than many other tests, and this technique is an important early step in developing such a test.”

There are plans for the technique to be used in mice to help find the best biomarkers patterns for identifying cancers in the early stages of the disease.