Researchers at molecular diagnostics company Exact Sciences and Mayo Clinic have identified a blood-based DNA biomarker panel that could help detect hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a type of liver cancer.

During the study, the test was used to analyse DNA extracted from the blood samples of 244 subjects, of which 95 people were suffering from different stages of HCC, 51 had cirrhosis and 98 were healthy volunteers.

The samples were assessed for 15 biomarkers in order to detect the combination of six biomarkers yielding the most accurate HCC diagnosis.

“The overall specificity of the blood-based DNA biomarker panel to distinguish healthy individuals from diseased patients was found to be 93%.”

Data showed that the panel of six biomarkers is 95% sensitive for all stages of HCC. Among patients with curable-stage disease, sensitivity was 91%.

In addition, the overall specificity of the panel to distinguish healthy individuals from diseased patients was found to be 93%.

Exact Sciences chairman and CEO Kevin Conroy said: “These results are further validation of our advanced DNA technology and our multi-biomarker approach for the detection of the deadliest forms of cancer.

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“We look forward to advancing this important research in early stage cancer with Mayo Clinic.”

According to Mayo Clinic Medical School assistant professor of medicine, John Kisiel, the results indicate that the panel can potentially transform the monitoring and identification of patients with curable-stage tumours.

The researchers are planning to apply the biomarker assay technology to all cancers, as part of their goal to validate the accuracy of the biomarkers identified for HCC detection.