Non-invasive but effective, this simple blood test could save countless lives.
A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University created a blood test, aptly named CancerSEEK, that can detect eight types of cancer in their earliest stages. The tests screens for mutations in 16 genes and presence of 8 proteins, all of whom are released by cancer cells, in the patient’s bloodstream. Even though the trials are still underway, CancerSEEK shows great promise.
Currently, to confirm a cancer diagnosis, a biopsy is performed- a needle is used to take a sample directly from the tumor, which is then tested. CancerSEEK could be considered to be a liquid biopsy, as it doesn’t require harvesting of tumor tissue to detect cancer. In fact, not only that the procedure is far less invasive, it could be much more efficient, as it would discover cancer well before any symptoms occur.
The test has been given to 1,000 subjects, and it accurately detected early-stage cancer in 70% of people who were participating and was rarely found to give false positives. The eight types of cancer this blood test can detect are ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic, oesophageal, bowel, lung and breast cancers. Specifically, CancerSEEK looks for tumor types for which there are no screening tests of any kind, which makes the prospect of its availability that much more exciting.
The hope is to create a simple, non-invasive test that could be done once a year, and, if need be, supported with other means of cancer detection, such as colonoscopy or mammography. With this test’s exceptional sensitivity to cancer indicators in the bloodstream, CancerSEEK’s ability for early detection could lead to more promising outcomes in cancer patients.
CancerSEEK is now being offered to thousands of healthy people across the United States, as a part of a trial that should, hopefully, result in a study in 3 to 5 years. If this test proves to be successful as it was in the beginning stages of the research, early detection of these devastating diseases could become a part of routine check-ups, and save countless lives in the process.
Photo credits: Romaset/Shutterstock