Grail blood test shows promise in early detection of lung cancer


New blood test detects ten cancer types years earlier, say scientists working on the research.

"Most cancers are detected at a late stage, but this "liquid biopsy" gives us the opportunity to find them months or years before someone would develop symptoms and be diagnosed".

Nicholas Turner from London's Institute of Cancer Research said, via The Guardian.

'We hope this test could save many lives.

It can now detect ovarian, pancreatic, liver, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, colorectal, esophageal, lung, head and neck, and breast cancers, but it works best for ovarian and pancreatic forms of the disease. New research on the liquid biopsy will be presented at the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, which began Thursday.

Takabe noted that although the study included more than 1,600 patients, the number of patients with some types of cancers was quite small - for example, only about 10 patients in the study had ovarian cancer - which is another limitation of the study.

Of those, 749 were cancer-free at the time, with no diagnosis, and 878 had been newly diagnosed with pancreatic, ovarian, liver and gallbladder cancers, and the test was correct in at least four out of five patients.

The test is called liquid biopsy and it's being hailed as the "holy grail of cancer research".

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Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said the test has the potential to "unlock enormous survival gains" across the NHS.

For several different cancers, the new blood test was able to accurately detect the disease in over 80 percent of affected patients.

The blood test found lymphoma and myeloma with slightly less accuracy, at 77% and 73%, and bowel cancer in two out of three patients.

The methods, which look for mutations and genomic changes, were up to 89% effective in detecting late-stage lung cancers.

We all have to sit for a blood test once in our lifetime. Finally, it will be important to establish how good this test is at identifying patients with the earliest stage of cancer.

The test uses whole genome sequencing.

For many common cancers, rates of survival triple when diagnosed at an early stage, according to Cancer Research UK.There's more work to do before it can be used regularly, though.

"While there's still a way to go before cell-free DNA from blood can be used for cancer detection on a broad scale, this research serves as a building block for the development of future tests".