A blood test that identifies signs of cancer up to a year before tumors have even formed has been developed by scientists. Trial results have proved 100 percent accurate, even detecting cancers in the “control group” of patients who were believed to be cancer-free.
According to Express, Researchers say that if the 1,000-strong trial can be successfully replicated on a larger scale it would represent the “holy grail” of cancer diagnosis, offering easy access to early, life-saving treatment.
The blood biopsy technique, which shows changes in how stem cells are behaving, could be the biggest cancer breakthrough in decades. The first trial has been published in Stem Cell Reviews and Reports, and this month the science behind it was outlined in the journal Stem Cells.
It found a blood sample passed through “next generation” gene sequencing machinery not only picked up early signals of the disease before cancer cells formed, it also identified cancer types and the stage of cancer once it had developed.
The trial of 1,000 patients comprised half who had a prior cancer diagnosis or went on to have cancer shortly after follow-up and the other half – the control group – who did not.
Those who had already been diagnosed had undergone the raft of tests normally used. This includes cell or tissue analysis from biopsies, CT scans, mammograms, X-rays, and various blood tests. Often cancers are well established by the time they are diagnosed and so are harder to treat.
Yet the blood test proved 100 percent accurate in identifying cancer patients. It also identified three in the control group thought to be cancer-free, who then developed cancer in the following 12 months.
The test, known as HrC, has been co-developed by Mumbai-based biotech firm Epigeneres and Singapore-based diagnostic company Tzar Labs.
It is designed to pick up specific markers which show changes in the behavior of stem cells that are a precursor to cancer mutations. Now experts at universities across the UK want to replicate the findings and plans are being made for trials across leading universities and hospitals.
Imperial College, Manchester University, and Cardiff University are drawing up “proof of concept” trials, while scientists at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, will hold a larger study.