In what can be only described as one of medical history’s most ambitious researches, the scientists from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine are now on the trial stage of developing the world’s first blood test for cancer.
Named as CancerSEEK, this blood test will detect 8 types of cancers: ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic, oesophageal, bowel, lung and breast. If successful, the blood test will be able to screen cancers before their symptoms can occur. Early diagnosis significantly raises the treatments’ effectivity. It should also be noted that 5 out of the 8 mentioned cancer types presently have no screening programs for early detection.
How It Will Work
Cancerous tumours emit traces of the mutated DNA and proteins they produce into the bloodstream. The CancerSEEK will search for mutations in the 16 genes that emerge in cancer and eight proteins that are often released.
Nickolas Papadopoulos, a professor of Oncology and Pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, likened the process to using combinations of drugs for cancer treatment. He said that “the use of a combination of selected biomarkers for early detection has the potential to change the way we screen for cancer.”
The test has already been tested on 1,005 confirmed patients with cancers of the ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, oesophagus, colon, lung or breast. 70% of the cancers were successfully detected. For some types of cancer, the tissue-of-origin was also identified.
At the moment, the CancerSEEK is being tested on people undiagnosed with cancer. This stage would really be the measure of its effectivity.
“A significant amount of further research is needed before we can even contemplate how this might play out in screening settings,” said Dr. Mangesh Thorat of the Queen Mary University of London’s Centre for Cancer Prevention. “This is only a case-control study, and therefore needs further evaluation in large cohorts more representative of general population where such screening might be introduced.”
Despite being still in its early stages, CancerSEEK has made scientist hopeful. Dr Gert Attard of the London’s Centre for Evolution and Cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research expressed his excitement for the project. “This is the Holy Grail – a blood test to diagnose cancer without all the other procedures like scans or colonoscopy.”
The proposed cost of CancerSEEK is less than $500 per patient, around the same price as a colonoscopy. If the project reaches success, scientists hope that people would have themselves tested annually.