Researchers at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center have announced a potential major breakthrough in the introduction of a blood test that could assist in the early detection of cancer. Although still only in the trial phase, CancerSEEK clinical studies (as the test is currently being called) focused on eight commonly found cancers: lung, ovary, breast, colon, pancreas, liver, stomach and esophagus. It works by looking for eight proteins and 16 mutated genes that are often released into the bloodstream by cancerous tumors.
The trial tests were split into two test groups: First, blood screenings of patients already diagnosed with cancer. Second, screenings of individuals who were cancer-free prior to being tested. Of the 1,005 pre-diagnosed patients, CancerSEEK was able to detect 70% of the cancers present. What has given new-found hope in this trial compared to unsuccessful cancer-finding blood screenings of the past is CancerSEEK’s low false positive readings for those not diagnosed with cancer yet. Of the 812 people studied, only 1% of the blood tests given incorrectly identified cancer as being found in the bloodstream.
Moving forward, researchers hope that the test can be improved to the point where it becomes a viable early-warning system for cancers that often show few symptoms. It is also thought the number of proteins and gene mutations being screened for can be increased, meaning more varieties of cancer will be detectable. While the potential is huge, CancerSEEK is still a work in progress. Some medical professionals estimate it is still at least five years away from being cleared as a reliable advance diagnosis tool.
Story by Jay Moon
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