The ultimate goal of the scientists is to have a blood test that everybody will do every year, as is the case with mammograms in women, so that any cancer can be diagnosed early enough to increase the likelihood of cure and survival. Such a universal early diagnosis test, before the onset of the first symptoms of cancer, is considered to be the “sacred chalice” of oncology.
The new non-invasive wet biopsy test called CancerSEEK analyzes DNA circulating in the blood and controls the presence of mutations in 16 genes and eight proteins linked to cancer.
The test was undertaken in 1,005 patients with diagnosed non-metastatic (ovarian, gastric, pancreatic, esophageal, colorectal, lung and breast) non-metastatic (stage one to three) cancers who had not spread to other organs . Five of these cancers (ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreas, and esophagus) do not yet have any early diagnosis tests.
The new test detected an average of about 70% of these cancers, with success rates varying according to the type of cancer: from 33% for breast cancer to 98% for ovarian cancer.
The test, whose cost is expected to be up to $ 500 per patient, uses a computer-based learning engineering algorithm to locate the body where the organ that has the cancer is located. The test is more effective in detecting second- and third-stage cancers than the first (detecting 43% on average of early-stage cancers).
The researchers, headed by Professor of Oncology and Pathology, Nicolas Papadopoulos, of the Johns Hopkins Medical School, who published the journal Science, said the test was not yet ready for clinical use and is already testing it not in cancer patients but in people without cancer to find out their true usefulness.
The results of this second largest five-year trial, which occurs in about 50,000 women aged 65 to 75, who have never had cancer so far, are expected with great interest. A first test of 812 healthy individuals shows that CancerSEEK shows false positive results (shows cancer without actually being present) in less than 1% of cases.
“The use of a combination of selected biomarkers for early detection has the potential to change the way we control the presence of cancer and is based on the same logic we use combinations of drugs to treat cancers,” said N. Papadopoulos. As to how useful it is in practice, he stressed that “a test need not be perfect to be useful.”