A controversial study on cancer risk was published back in March that claimed that two-thirds of all cancers are down to bad luck. It has been greeted with plenty of skepticism by medical professionals, who are concerned with the way the researchers reached this conclusion.
Nevertheless, the authors of the study and its detractors agree on one key point: Much more needs to be done to detect cancers earlier in order for treatment to begin sooner rather than later. As it so happens, a new Nature study has outlined how a blood test can detect lung cancer a year earlier than any CT or X-ray scan is currently able to.
The team, headed by the Cancer Research UK Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence, the Francis Crick Institute, and University College London’s Cancer Institute, were engaged in a comprehensive study attempting to track the genesis and progression of lung cancer in patients.
They were on the lookout for all and any biomarkers that indicate the stages of the cancer’s proliferation through the body. Their aim, ultimately, was to find signs of the cancer making a comeback after treatment.
During the Cancer Research UK-funded trial, lung tumor samples were extracted from the patients during surgery and carefully analyzed. The genetic markers of the patient’s tumors were documented, and subsequent blood tests were designed to check for signs of these markers as the months went by.
Remarkably, these blood tests can pick up on these biomarkers long before any other form of cancer detection method. Although there are exceptions, the presence of cancer in the body can only normally be confirmed through scans or biopsies, not just blood tests.
Lung cancer is difficult to detect, which lowers survival rates considerably. create jobs 51/Shutterstock
The fact that such a sensitive blood test now exists – for lung cancer, at least – is an incredible revelation, and an amazing achievement by the huge research team.
Of course, earlier detection means earlier treatment, and this will inevitably lead to greater survival rates.
Lung cancer patients, more than most, are in dire need of this type of test. In the UK alone, 44,500 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every single year, and it’s normally diagnosed at a late stage – this particular condition doesn’t normally have any clear symptoms associated with it early on.
Just one in three people with lung cancer live for at least a year after their diagnosis, and a mere one in 20 live for more than a decade.
A cancer diagnosis is a terrifying, earth-shattering experience that no one deserves. Nevertheless, scientists all over the world are working hard at it, finding novel ways to detect it, treat it, and destroy it. More people are surviving cancer than ever before, and this new study represents another powerful weapon in our arsenal.
[H/T: BBC News]