A blood test described as a new way to detect a range of cancer – and whether it has spread – is the subject of a recent study.
Researchers say the ‘rapid and inexpensive’ test could detect early cancer.
A study by Oxford researchers was published today in Clinical Cancer Research, a medical journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
The multi-cancer test detected correctly detected cancer in 19 of 20 patients.
It also identified metastatic cancer (cancer that has spread in the body) at a rate of 94 percent.
Researchers analysed samples from 300 patients with non-specific but ‘concerning’ symptoms of cancer, like fatigue and weight loss.
The study evaluated whether the blood test could tell patients with a range of tumours apart from people who don’t have cancer.
The researchers wrote: “This rapid and inexpensive test could help to overcome many barriers to the early detection of cancer, especially in patients that present with non-specific symptoms, which do not direct investigations towards a specific organ.”
Thus, the study says this test is the first technology to identify whether a cancer has spread from a simple blood test without knowing the type of cancer.
Rather than testing tumour samples, the blood test uses technology called NMR metabolomics.
NMR metabolomics uses high magnetic fields and radio waves to check the levels of chemicals (or metabolites) in blood.
Researchers explained: “Healthy individuals, people with localised cancer, and people with metastatic cancer each have different profiles of blood metabolites, which can be detected and then analysed by the researchers’ algorithms to distinguish between these states.”
Dr Fay Probert, lead researcher of the study from the University of Oxford, said: “This work describes a new way of identifying cancer.
“The goal is to produce a test for cancer that any GP can request.
“We envisage that metabolomic analysis of the blood will allow accurate, timely and cost-effective triaging of patients with suspected cancer, and could allow better prioritisation of patients based on the additional early information this test provides on their disease.”
Patients for the study were recruited from the NHS Oxfordshire Suspected CANcer (SCAN) pathway.
SCAN is a project aiming to reduce the time that patients with vague but possibly cancerous symptoms wait to be diagnosed.
Future studies with larger sample sizes will assess the blood test as a method of early cancer detection.