From Patrick J. Ward, MD, PhD, medical oncologist and hematologist, and David M. Waterhouse, MD, MPH, medical oncologist and hematologist, who both serve as co-directors of OHC’s Research Department

June 27, 2019

Each year, cancer experts from OHC are invited to present their work at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Conference. This month, we presented the findings of a study that could be a first step toward the development of a blood test for detecting cancer.

The study, which included local patients from OHC, identified several patients who did not have a cancer diagnosis but did have certain DNA that suggests the presence of cancer. Later, these patients were diagnosed with the cancer that was suggested by the DNA.

The impact of these results could be phenomenal because currently, if we suspect a patient has cancer, we run one or more tests to confirm our suspicions. This could include CT scans, ultrasound, multiple non-DNA blood tests, and even exploratory surgery so surgeons can provide us with tissue samples. These findings could eventually change that, and the change will be significant.

Just how significant? A blood test could allow for the following:

  • Diagnose cancers for which there are currently no screening options, such as ovarian cancer, a relatively uncommon but extremely fatal cancer
  • Test for cancer in cases where the ability to collect tissue samples from a tumor isn’t available
  • Start treatment sooner thanks to earlier diagnoses when outcomes are typically at their highest
  • Reduce the need for additional testing, which then reduces the cost for patients and payors

We are still quite some ways away from having a reliable, confirmed blood test for cancer. Still, these first steps offer promise.

Conference participants have the opportunity to share their work with other doctors from around the world, expanding one another’s knowledge on the newest, most promising treatments discovered through clinical trials. It’s a critical step in the world of cancer research because without clinical trials, there will be no cure.

OHC has a nationally recognized clinical trials program that provides patients with access to new treatments, some of which may not be available to the public for years. And, our program has been involved in more than 80 percent of the cancer drugs that have been approved by the FDA over the last several years.

For a list of trials, or to learn more about the program, please visit this page. You can also contact OHC at or 1-800-710-4674 if you’d like a second opinion about your diagnosis or treatment plan.

The findings were also outlined in a paper co-authored by Dr. Ward and published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology.

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