The research team at John Hopkins University, School of Medicine in Baltimore, has developed a technique called “CancerSEEK”, which utilizes blood samples from individuals to identify cancer patients, even at early stages.
The blood test is able to determine eight common types of cancer by detecting the small fragments of mutated DNA and proteins that are released by cancerous tumor into the bloodstream.
Cancer is still one of the leading causes of death in the world but it can be defeated if recognize early in the stage of development, which is quite challenging to achieve due to the limited technology for diagnosis. The number of deaths due to cancer is estimated to rise to about 13 million until 2030.
CancerSEEK can diagnose breast, lungs, colorectal, ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic, and esophageal cancers.
CancerSEEK works by identifying the markers for 16 gene mutations and eight proteins that are linked to eight different types of cancers including breast, lungs, colorectal, ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic, and esophageal cancer. Currently, there is no effective screening test available for most of these cancers.
“A novelty of our classification method is that it combines the probability of observing various DNA mutation together with the level of protein in order to make the final call…” said Cristian Tomasetti, Ph.D., and an associate professor of oncology and biostatistics at John Hopkin’s University.
1,005 individuals, who were diagnosed with the non-metastatic form of cancer among the eight types have been tested by CancerSEEK by researchers. The test was successfully able to identify about 70 percent of the cancers. The sensitivity of the test varied from 33 percent for the breast cancer to as high as 98 percent for ovarian cancer. For the remaining 5 cancers, which do not currently have any routine screening tests, the sensitivity ranged from 69 percent to 98 percent. The specificity of the CancerSEEK reported more than 99 percent.
The researchers also found out that the test was also capable of pinning down the location of tumors for 83 percent of patients. Kenneth Kinzler, co-director of the Ludwig Centre for Cancer Genetics and Therapeutics at Johns Hopkins said, “Very high specificity was essential because false-positive results can subject to unnecessary invasive follow-up tests and procedures to confirm the presence of cancer”.
According to researchers the CanacerSEEK still needs to be tested in more extensive studies to ascertain its efficacy as a routine screening test for cancer. Nevertheless, the team believes that the results of the current research are very promising. Dr. Anne Marie Lennon, associate professor of medicine, surgery, and radiology at John Hopkins says,”This has the potential to substantially impact patients. Earlier detection provides many ways to improve outcomes for the patients. Optimally, cancers would be detected early enough that they could be cured by surgery alone, but even cancers that are not curable by surgery alone will respond better to systemic therapies where there is the less advanced disease.”
CancerSEEK test costs less than most of the available screening tests, thus making it more convenient for the mankind. The team hopes that CancerSEEK will be proved as cheap, simple and non-invasive cancer screening tool that detect cancers in a very early stage.