Scientists from the John Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore published a study on Wednesday regarding the development of a new non-invasive method for cancer detection. Called a “liquid biopsy”, the test detects the cancer-related DNA in the patient’s blood.
The Blood Test Increases the Chances to Save Lives
Lead researcher, doctor Victor Velculescu, explains that the newly-developed blood test scans the DNA fragments left by the cancerous cells in the bloodstream. The study shows that the test is able to detect these DNA fragments, avoiding thus to render false positives in healthy patients.
For the study, the team from Baltimore tested 200 patients that have been diagnosed with cancer. The liquid biopsy accurately detected between 59% and 71% of the time. So far the test detected colon, breast, lung or ovarian cancers either stage one or two. Velculescu believes that this liquid biopsy is a step forward in detecting early-stage cancers before it is too late to intervene.
Velculescu added that the test will have to be perfected so as to detect only the DNA mutations caused by cancer and ignore the naturally occurring mutations which are harmless for the human body. For the study, Velculescu’s team looked at 58 genes that are linked to cancer before looking for the DNA tumors in the patients’ blood.
The deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, praised Dr. Velculescu’s research as a step forward in cancer treatment. Lichtenfeld noted that scientists need to improve the sensitivity of the test but the procedure is very “elegant.” Furthermore, Lichtenfeld stressed the need for early detection of ovarian cancer as the tumor is usually detected at a much later stage after it spreads. Velculescu’s blood test specifically detected ovarian cancer 68% of the time. No false positives were signaled.
Researchers still need to validate the test at a larger scale.
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