We've always heard early detection is the key to beating cancer, but there hasn't been a way to screen for all cancers, especially some of the most deadly, until now.
“So, it's been known for a long time that cancers, as cancer cells die, they shed a number of different molecules into the bloodstream, including DNA and we call that circulating tumor DNA or since it's not in a cell it's called cell-free DNA. And so, what this blood test is designed to do is to detect the presence of cell-free DNA that’s shed by tumors in the bloodstream and help identify individuals who might have a cancer,” said Dr. Eric Klein, with the Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Klein is involved in the studies of that blood test. The results of a third and final sub-study published in The Annals of Oncology produced extremely promising results and confirmed earlier findings.
The test was run on blood samples from people with cancer and without. It was able to detect more than half of cancer cases. It almost never gave a false-positive result. And what's key is that it was more accurate in identifying 12 specific cancers that account for the majority of cancer deaths in the U.S. every year.
“We think that we’ll see a stage shift in terms of the diagnosis of new cancers and that what everything we know about cancer, as you catch them earlier, they're easier to cure. The burden of cure is lower, fewer treatments are needed, and the cure rate is higher,” said Dr. Klein.
Dr. Klein and others involved in the research want to be clear that this blood test is not meant to be used in replacement of regular screenings but as a supplement.
It could be especially beneficial to those at higher risk of cancer because of their genes or lifestyle, cancer survivors, people 50 and older when cancer risk goes up, and for those who lack access to health care.
“There are lots of communities that are underserved because there aren't facilities available to do mammography or colonoscopy, or individuals don't have, say, the personal wherewithal to be able to take time off from an hourly, you know, wage-paying job, you know, where if they're not working, they are not being paid and they don't have time to do a colonoscopy prep and they don't have time to do a colonoscopy or all of those things,” said Dr. Klein.
There's a meeting this month with key players in this cancer detection blood test to discuss the next steps.
There's already one of these tests coming to a U.S. hospital group soon. Right now, it cost almost $1,000. Other companies will likely have their own tests soon.