Single Blood Test Could Speed Cancer Diagnosis

By Peter Russell
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Sheena Meredith, MD

Nov. 3, 2014 -- A single blood test to detect cancer earlier is a step closer, scientists in the U.K. say, after they discovered more than 800 possible signs of cancer in the blood, called biomarkers, in people with cancer.

All cancers leave markers in the blood, and that raises the possibility of a general screening test for many different kinds of cancer.

Study author Professor Ian Cree, from the University of Warwick and University Hospital in Coventry, says in a statement: "This is a new approach to early detection and the first time such a systematic review has been done. A single blood-based screening test would be a game-changer for early detection of cancer, which could help make it a curable disease for many more patients.

"We believe that we've identified all the relevant biomarkers; the next step is working out which ones work the best for spotting cancers."

Finding ways to spot cancers earlier could help give more treatment options earlier and save more lives.

This study could open the way for less invasive, new screening tests that could detect more cancers, possibly including some rare types, at an early stage when they're more likely to be treatable.

The U.K. Early Cancer Detection Consortium did the study, which involved sifting through more than 19,000 scientific papers. The group is funded by Cancer Research UK.

The findings were presented at this week's National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference in Liverpool, England.

The identified biomarkers will be reviewed and grouped before they're developed further in lab studies.

In a statement, Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of early diagnosis, says: "This is an innovative and promising new approach. And although in its early stages, it shows how our increased understanding of cancers' 'markers' and new technologies are combining to offer new opportunities to detect cancer sooner.

"Diagnosing cancer at an early stage generally means more effective treatment and that translates into better survival. Our goal over the next 20 years is that three in four cancer patients will survive at least 10 years after their diagnosis."

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SOURCE: National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference, Nov. 2-5, 2014, Liverpool, England.

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SOURCE: National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference, Nov. 2-5, 2014, Liverpool, England.

©2014 WebMD, LLC. All Rights Reserved.