Scientists Are Developing a Universal Blood Test to Detect Cancers


Developing a blood test for cancer detection is a huge advance towards the survival rates of patients. Early detection is key to preventing diseases from spreading and ultimately impacting mortality rates. In an exciting progression towards finding an early detection method, scientists at John Hopkins University have developed a blood test that, if successful, could be used nationwide.

The CancerSEEK test looks for mutations in DNA and proteins where tumors release traces into the bloodstream. In a trial on 1,005 cancer patients, 70 percent of cancers were found. The patients tested had cancers in the ovaries, stomach, liver, esophagus, colon, lung, pancreas, or breasts, but it had not yet spread to other tissues.

The test will now be moved on to be used on individuals who haven’t been diagnosed with cancer, which is the real test of its effectiveness. If its successful, it will have a huge impact on mortality, considering five of the eight cancers investigated currently having no screening programs for early detection.

Dr. Tomasetti from John Hopkins University says being able to detect those cancers early and remove tumors would be “a night and day difference” for survival. He also added that the team envisions a blood test that could be used once a year. Although the test still needs more research to understand its usefulness, Dr. Gert Attard, team leader in the Centre for Evolution and Cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research, told the BBC.

‘I’m enormously excited. This is the Holy Grail — a blood test to diagnose cancer without all the other procedures like scans or colonoscopy.”

However, there is doubt about what the future holds, even if the test proves worthwhile. Some of the treatments for cancer can be considered more life-altering than the initial, non-life-threatening cancer. Regardless, with early detection being so important, the ability to treat cancer early, if necessary, and monitor it closely is groundbreaking.

This post was written by Georgia Aspinall. For more, check out our sister site Grazia.

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