New blood test 'can screen for eight different cancer types'

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It could let doctors know early on whether a patient had cancer of the ovary, liver, pancreas, oesophagus, bowel, lung or breast.

'The now available screening tests can also be unpleasant, have associated risks and uptake can be low.

"The sensitivity of the test in stage 1 cancer is quite low, about 40 percent, and even with stage 1 and 2 combined it appears to be around 60 percent".

The study was led by a team of United States researchers from Johns Hopkins University and involved 400 patients from Melbourne's Footscray Hospital.

For the blood test approach used in the new study, the researchers combined assessing levels of circulating proteins in the blood and mutations in cell-free DNA.

Theodora Ross, director of UT Southwestern Medical Center's Cancer Genetics Program, who was not involved in the study, tempered the results somewhat, telling Axios that the patient cohort should not have included Stage III cancer patients.

Eight hundred volunteers who had not yet been diagnosed with cancer were also tested. Will the test pick up small tumors that would never grow large enough to cause problems yet will be treated anyway, at unnecessary cost, risk, and anxiety to the patient?

In addition to identifying the type of cancer, CancerSEEK can direct physicians toward the cancer's location in a patient's body.

The scientists reported that the test was 70% accurate at spotting people with cancer.

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Associate Professor Tie said the blood test had the potential to be a one-stop screening for multiple tumours.

The investigators feel that a test that will be used routinely for cancer screening must have a cost in line with or less than other now available screening tests for single cancers, such as colonoscopy.

The scientists said that their test was aimed at detecting eight different and common forms of the deadly disease.

"There are still no effective screening tests for many major tumour types and available tests can each only screen for one cancer at a time, it said".

Those forms of the disease represent more than 60% of cancer deaths in the US, they said.

The researchers still have a long way to go in order to see if the test really works on the general population and prevents deaths by early cancer detection say experts. The test costs less than $500 per patient putting it on par with the cost of a colonoscopy.

With the exception of detecting blood cancers, however, those tests "generally can't absolutely tell whether you have cancer or some other noncancerous condition", according to Mayo Clinic's website.

When the researchers ran the test on 812 healthy blood samples, there were only seven false positive results. Study results will be available in the next three to five years.

Professor Gibbs said the test could one day reduce the number of people dying from cancer in Australia every year. The test is sold now in Taiwan for $500 USA, but should cost around $150 in the U.S., he said.

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