Study Offers Hope for a Universal Blood Test for Cancer

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, 18 million cases of cancer were diagnosed around the world in 2018. And the number of new cancer cases is expected to reach more than 23 million by the year 2030. The average person has a nearly 40% chance of being diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life, and a 1 in 5 chance of dying from cancer.

The most common type of cancers are breast cancer and lung cancer. But regardless of the type of cancer, there is one fact that is common to every type of cancer: the earlier it is detected, the better the chance of a positive outcome.

Generally speaking, cancer is diagnosed after symptoms develop. At that point a variety of scans, biopsies, and blood tests are used to determine whether the symptoms are due to cancer. Unfortunately, by the time the symptoms occur and cancer is confirmed, it may be too late for the best possible outcome. Consequently, the search for an efficient test that would detect cancer at an early stage is extremely important.

Researchers at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom have been working on a universal blood test for the early diagnosis of cancer. Lead researcher Prof. Diana Anderson stated, “This test is different from other universal cancer tests being developed because it is not looking for a specific biomarker or mutation. This is a generic test for cancer in an individual, regardless of the underlying mechanism causing their cancer.”

The new test takes the DNA of white blood cells and measures the damage caused to them after they are exposed to ultraviolet light. Damage to the DNA of white blood cells when exposed to ultraviolet light takes the form of a “comet tail.” The longer the tail, the more damaged the DNA. And damaged DNA is a common marker for cancer.

In one part of their ongoing study, the University of Bradford researchers showed they were able to identify samples from patients with three different types of cancer compared to a control group of healthy people with 93% accuracy. The results were published in the journal FASEB BioAdvances.

The researchers also tested their method on 700 blood samples derived from people with prostate and colorectal cancer, combining them with a group of blood samples derived from healthy people. This time the new test failed in 60 cases. Although the result was still quite good, the researchers sought a stronger result.

Prof. Anderson requested that IMSTAR, a Paris-based tech company, help analyze the results of her team’s study to help determine why certain cases had failed. IMSTAR, combining the researchers’ method with their technology system, was able to successfully distinguish 100% the cancer samples from the healthy samples.

Prof. Anderson stated that she is now convinced that the group’s original method, in conjunction with the IMSTAR system, will allow a predictability rate well beyond the original 93% accuracy.

Work is in progress to simplify the blood test to the point that it can be used as an early screening device for any type of cancer. If the team is able to accomplish this goal, early diagnosis of cancer could conceivably become the norm, and the consequent decrease in death from cancer will benefit all of us.

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