Cancer Update: Blood Test for Cancer?

Early diagnosis is a must to maximize the patient’s chance of conquering cancer. It is instrumental in the probability of turning cancer from a deadly disease to a survivable one. If it is diagnosed during the time when it is still surgically possible to remove the tumors, the patient’s likelihood of surviving the disease grows exponentially. However, as is the norm, cancer rarely manifests at the onset and the symptoms only start to aggressively show when it has already progressed. For most patients, this is when cancer has already metastasized or has spread to other parts of the body.

Truth be told, there are cancers that can be diagnosed early. To give you an example, colon cancer is oftentimes thwarted by a colonoscopy, breast cancer by a mammogram, and ovarian cancer diagnosed from a Pap smear. These procedures can detect abnormal cells and, in the case of colon cancer, remove the polyps before they become cancerous tumors.

However, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a simple diagnostic tool that can detect cancer from the onset, once and for all? Such a tool would be a game changer in the cancer scene as it has the probability of detecting the disease while it is still very vulnerable.

“Liquid Biopsies”

Liquid biopsies are defined by the National Cancer Institute as “a test done on a sample of blood to look for cancer cells from a tumor that are circulating in the blood or for pieces of DNA from tumor cells that are in the blood.” The same source goes on to say that liquid biopsies are used to detect cancer at an early stage, plan treatments and determine how treatments are working out, and help doctors understand what changes are taking place within the disease.

Today, a revolutionary blood test is being studied by Dr. Victor Velculescu of Johns Hopkins University Kimmel Cancer Center and his colleagues. The promising blood test was able to accurately diagnose half of the patients who have stage 1 cancer, and its efficacy was even more impressive when it comes to determining late-stage cancers. Furthermore, there were no false positives in the 44 people who yielded negative results. The team explored 58 cancer-related genes and from them were able to sequence the DNA 30,000 times to look for telltale signs of these mutations in the bloodstream.

Yet the promising blood test needs further testing, particularly with a larger group of participants to determine its accuracy. The researchers said that among their goals would be to try the blood test in patients who are at high risk of cancer but do not display any symptoms – such as smokers or those with known gene mutations.

In the end, a more concrete position on the accuracy of the test could spell the difference between life and death in undiagnosed patients. After all, if the blood test can determine if they have cancer from the onset, they would be primary candidates for surgery. Surgical intervention at an early stage is one of the ways through which cancer is successfully eradicated.

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