Scientists hope the new blood test will one day be used by doctors in the future (Picture: Getty)
A new blood test could detect symptoms of several types of cancers years before a person falls ill, scientists have said. The test is called liquid biopsy and it’s being hailed as the ‘holy grail of cancer research’.
In its trial stage, the test proved particularly successful in detecting genetic diseases, including pancreatic and ovarian cancers. A trial of around 1,600 people found the non-invasive procedure to identify DNA markers works with up to 90% accuracy, the authors 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,’ said Dr Eric Klein, lead author of the research from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
‘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.’ Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said such advances in medicine could ‘dramatically transform’ the tools doctors use to screen cancer.
Stevens said: ‘Our 100,000 genome project already makes England a world leader in applying the medical technologies of the future. ‘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.’ The study examined 749 people without cancer and 878 who had been newly diagnosed with the disease, but not yet been treated. The test detected 90% of ovarian, 80% of pancreatic and two thirds of bowel cancer cases (66%), according to the research.
It was 77% accurate in diagnosing lymphoma, 73% accurate for myeloma, and 80% accurate for liver and gallbladder cancers. Triple-negative breast, lung, oesophagus, head and neck cancers were also picked up with more than 50% accuracy. However, it was less effective at detecting stomach, uterine and early-stage prostate cancer, the authors said.