Detecting cancer from just a single drop of blood
We're learning more and more about what information can be gleaned by looking at blood samples. This new finding could be a major victory in the battle against cancer for many.
Dutch researchers at the VU medical centre have developed a method of detecting various forms of cancer using only a single drop of blood. The new method even works for very early stage detection, and has been tested to up to 95% accuracy for most types of cancer.
Researchers screened blood samples of a thousand cancer patients of various diagnoses and prognoses. They were able to determine not only the presence of cancerous cells, but also the type, whether it had metastasised, and in the latter case, where the original tumor was located. This is all vital information when trying to fight the disease, especially in the early stages.
The researchers note that while intestinal cancer showed the highest reliability figures, the opposite was true for types of brain cancer. Here, the reliability dropped to in the region of 85%. That's still very good compared to existing tests. The researchers suspect that the blood-brain barrier might be the reason for the lower accuracy for detecting forms of brain cancer. This barrier has the function of protecting the brain from influences like viruses and parasites present in the rest of the body.
Current estimates for developing a market-ready test point to as early as 2020. Early detection is hugely important with this treacherous condition, so we're pleased to see that it may not be far off at all.
Cancer Saliva Test 'Could Be In Homes By 2020'
A 10-minute saliva test could revolutionise the diagnosis of cancer - with the scientist behind the technique hoping it will be available in the UK within four years.
The "liquid biopsy", which costs just £15, uses a single drop of saliva to look for fragments of a genetic molecule linked to the disease.
Current tests for cancer often have a two-week turnaround time, but this breakthrough means a diagnosis "can be done in a doctor's office while patients wait".
So far, saliva tests on lung cancer patients have had "near-perfect" accuracy and the professor who pioneered the breakthrough has told Sky News it could be used to diagnose other cancers.
Professor David Wong, from the University of California at Los Angeles, said: "One that comes to mind and is on our agenda is pancreatic cancer where one gene is mutated in 95% of patients … currently there are no effective early screening capabilities for pancreatic cancer at all."
He believes the new technology could be made available through pharmacies, allowing patients to get results in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.
"Down the road it might be possible to test for multiple cancers at the same time," Professor Wong added.
Prototype products are being built which will be tested in China and continental Europe this year - and the saliva tests would need to be given regulatory approval before becoming available in the UK.
"This technology is global. We're very enthusiastic and excited. The most important issue is performance and we have the capability," said Professor Wong.
"Early detection is crucial. Any time you gain in finding out that someone has a life-threatening cancer, the sooner the better."