An important step in developing a global blood test that detects at the same time eight types of cancer was made by scientists in the United States headed by a Greek oncologist. The scientists’ ultimate goal is to develop a blood test that everybody will take once a year, so that cancer is diagnosed early enough in order to increase the likelihood of cure and survival. Such a universal early diagnosis test, before the onset of the first symptoms of cancer, is considered to be the “sacred chalice” of oncology.
The new non-invasive wet biopsy test called CancerSEEK analyzes the DNA circulating in the blood and controls the presence of mutations in 16 genes and eight proteins associated with cancer.
The test was tested in 1,005 patients with diagnosed non-metastatic (stage one to three) cancers of the ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, colon, lung and breast, which had not spread to other organs. Five of these cancers (ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreas, and esophagus) do not yet have any early diagnosis tests.
The new test detected an average of about 70% of these cancers, with success rates ranging from 33% for breast cancer to 98% for ovarian. The test, which is expected to cost up to $ 500 per patient, uses a computer-based learning engineering algorithm to locate the part of the body where the organ with the cancer is located. Howevre, it is more effective in detecting second and third stage cancers than first (detected 43% on average of early-stage cancers).
The researchers, headed by Professor of Oncology and Pathology Nicolas Papadopoulos, of the Johns Hopkins Medical School, who published the results of the research in Science magazine, said that the test is not ready for clinical use and that they are already testing it on non-cancer patients, to ensure its effectiveness.
The results of this second largest five-year trial in which about 50,000 women aged 65 to 75 who never had cancer participate, are expected with great interest. During the first test effectuated on 812 healthy individuals, CancerSEEK showed false positive results (showed cancer when there was not) in less than 1% of the cases.
“The use of a combination of selected biomarkers for early detection has the potential to change the way we control the presence of cancer and is based on the same logic we use combinations of drugs to treat cancers,” said N. Papadopoulos. As to how useful it is in practice, he stressed that “a test need not be perfect to be useful.”