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universal blood test for cancer

Cancer: Could a ‘universal’ blood test make detection easier?

Comments from D. Randolph Drosick, MD, medical oncologist and hematologist with OHC. Article by Chiara Townley, Medical News Today, Blogs, 0 comments
December 5, 2018


Earlier this year, OHC shared news about researchers in Australia and their groundbreaking work on a new blood test that could detect eight common types of cancer before they spread. The test was able to detect tumors about 70% of the time on average in more than 1,000 patients with early-stage cancer. It used DNA and biomarkers to detect and identify cancers, including five types for which there is currently no screening test.

On Tuesday, December 4, 2018, USA Today reported that the Australian scientists have developed a simple blood test that they claim can diagnose cancer in mere minutes by identifying a unique DNA signature present in all types of the disease. USA Today article: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/12/04/cancer-researchers-australia-develop-universal-blood-test/2209555002/

Researchers in the UK have developed a generic test for cancer that doesn’t require biomarkers or DNA, and it has shown better results. The team has partnered with a tech company to bring it to market. They believe this test could be the first screening tool to detect cancer.

Doctors can diagnose cancers in a variety of ways. The most common methods include laboratory tests (blood, urine, and others), biopsy, endoscopy, genetic tests, and imaging tests, such as X-ray, MRI, and ultrasound. In the past years, researchers at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom, have focused on a new “universal” blood test for earlier diagnosis of cancer. They believe that this new test could help detect cancer in people who doctors think may have the disease. The research team partnered with a tech company to bring this revolutionary blood test to market.

“What is notable about this test is that it isn’t based on specific mutations or biomarkers,” said D. Randolph Drosick, MD, medical oncologist and hematologist with OHC. “That means it can detect cancer without having to know the source that’s causing the cancer. And, the Australian work was 70% effective. This one detected the cancer in 100% of the samples.”

The test measures the damage to the DNA of white blood cells after exposure to ultraviolet light. This process reveals the cells’ susceptibility to damage and the presence of cancer. The damage takes the form of a “comet tail” of DNA pieces. If the tail is long, it means that cancer may be present. In other words, the DNA of people who have cancer is more easily damaged by ultraviolet light.

In 2014, the Bradford team showed that they were able to identify samples from patients with three different types of cancer and they were successful in the identification of 93% of the cases. The researchers published their results in the FASEB BioAdvances journal.

The problem came later when they tested 700 blood samples from people with colorectal and prostate cancer. They were unable to separate the samples with cancer from healthy samples in 60 cases.

“This is where the true researcher comes out in a scientist,” Dr. Drosick explained. “Instead of giving up, they were determined to discover the source of the problem, and ultimately turned to another source in the hopes they could figure it out.”

Professor Diana Anderson asked IMSTAR, a Paris-based tech company, to analyze the results to find out why the team had failed to detect cancer in these 60 cases. The researchers discovered that the system the researchers used was responsible for the failure. The IMSTAR Pathfinder system successfully separated all the samples with cancer from the healthy control group.

With the help of the IMSTAR advanced Pathfinder cell reader-analyzer, the Bradford team aims to create TumorScan, a powerful and highly effective test to detect cancer. They are optimistic, and believe that this test could change the future of cancer detection.

“We feel that we’ve taken it as far as we can in proving that the test works, and IMSTAR is the right partner to improve it still further,” says co-first author Dr. Mojgan Najafzadeh.

The IMSTAR team is excited to participate in the creation of this revolutionary method to diagnose cancer.

“To bring a universal ‘liquid biopsy’ blood test for cancer to market, it must achieve a number of criteria, including high sensitivity and specificity and be fully automated with high throughput for a medical routine use. In addition, test results must be available in 24 hours and at an affordable cost,” says IMSTAR’s president, Dr. Françoise Soussaline.

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, there were about 18 million cancer cases diagnosed around the world in 2018. The number of new cancer cases per year is expected to reach more than 23 million by 2030. The most common cancers globally are lung cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer. Lung and breast cancers contributed to 12.3 percent of the 18 million cases diagnosed in 2018, with more than 2 million cases, respectively. Colorectal cancer is in third place with almost 2 million new cases diagnosed in 2018.

For more information about the latest advancements in cancer, call OHC at 1-888-649-4800 to schedule an appointment to speak with an OHC doctor or a member of the research team.


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