Breakthrough Blood Test That Spots Cancer Early Could Be "The Holy Grail Of Cancer Research"

The blood test can detect 10 types of cancer years before patients show symptoms of the disease. ESB Professional/Shutterstock

Rachel Baxter 02 Jun 2018, 00:28

One of the biggest issues with cancer is that it is frequently diagnosed far too late. The symptoms can often be quite generic, like tiredness and weight loss, so many people don’t find out they have the disease until it has really taken hold. Unfortunately, this is also when it is much harder to treat. 

But scientists have made a breakthrough. They have identified a new kind of blood test that can determine the presence of 10 different cancers long before tumors even occur. While the test isn’t 100 percent accurate and still needs more work, the lead researcher has hailed it as “potentially the holy grail of cancer research.”

Dr Eric Klein told The Telegraph that the new test could help doctors “find cancers that are currently hard to cure and at an earlier stage when they are easier to cure.

“We hope this test could save many lives.”

It all sounds rather promising, so what does it actually involve?

The technique is known as a liquid biopsy. Essentially, it involves screening the blood for DNA molecules released by cancerous cells. At the moment, depending on the type, cancers are often identified through scans and biopsies. A number of different blood tests are also currently used to check out things like blood cell count, liver and kidney function, and the presence of substances produced by tumors.

What’s exciting about the new development is that it can screen people for signs of cancer years before they show symptoms of the disease. Therefore, if further research proves successful and the test starts to be used, it could allow doctors to screen patients for certain kinds of cancer, potentially saving many lives. According to The Telegraph, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) could start using the blood test within the next five years, but some state that figure is overly ambitious.

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