Researchers from Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, US have unveiled a new diagnostic test that can identify ten different cancer types in a blood sample, even before the appearance of disease symptoms.
The non-invasive test works by detecting fragments of DNA that are released by tumour cells into the blood.
Led by Dr Eric Klein from the clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute, the research team conducted a clinical study in a total of more than 1,600 subjects to evaluate the blood test.
Findings from the trial will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncologists conference in Chicago.
Klein said: “This is potentially the holy grail of cancer research, to find cancers that are currently hard to cure at an earlier stage when they are easier to cure. We hope this test could save many lives.
“Most cancers are detected at a late stage, but this liquid biopsy gives us the opportunity to find them months or years before someone would develop symptoms and be diagnosed.”
Of those tested in the study, 749 were cancer-free at the time of enrolment and 878 had been newly diagnosed with cancer.
The test’s affinity to diagnose the disease was based on the type of cancer, with 90% accuracy demonstrated in certain cases. It was observed to be more accurate in detecting pancreatic, ovarian, liver and gallbladder cancers.
The test was able to detect lymphoma, myeloma and lung cancer with 77%, 73% and 59% accuracy, respectively.
However, the test identified head and neck cancer in only 56% of the patients, and bowel cancer in two out of three subjects.
While further investigation is required, the researchers believe that the test holds the potential for universal screening.
Commenting on the new test, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “Now, as the NHS marks its 70th anniversary, we stand on the cusp of a new era of personalised medicine that will dramatically transform care for cancer and for inherited and rare diseases.
“In particular, new techniques for precision early diagnosis would unlock enormous survival gains, as well as dramatic productivity benefits in the practice of medicine.”