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Blood test detects 8 common cancers, study reports

Scientists have developed an experimental blood test that can detect eight common cancers, even at very early stages.

The study is described in the journal Science.

The test, which uses combined assays for genetic alterations and protein biomarkers, can spot the presence of lung, colorectal, liver, stomach, esophageal, breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers, according to a statement by The Lustgarten Foundation, the largest U.S. private foundation dedicated to funding pancreatic cancer research.

“We selected those eight cancers based on how frequent they are, also [because] a lot of them do not have any screening modality right now,” says co-author Nickolas Papadopoulos, a professor of oncology and pathology at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, in a report by NPR.

The test, called CancerSEEK, is not only capable of detecting the presence of cancer even before symptoms appear, it also can pinpoint the organ in which the cancer originated.

“The potential this has for pancreatic cancer is unprecedented,” says co-author Anne Marie Lennon, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of the Pancreatic Cyst Center of the Ludwig Center at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, in the statement. “We know that in 80-85 percent of pancreatic cancer cases, it’s detected too late, leaving the patient with few options. Developing a blood screening test for pancreatic cancer has been an urgent goal, because catching the disease early will be the way we get to long-term survival.”

The CancerSEEK test was evaluated in more than 1,000 patients who had one of the eight common cancers, including 93 people with pancreatic cancer. The researchers were able to identify 72 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer.

The test could be incorporated into routine medical checkups and eventually could cost less than $500, according to the study.

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