Britain: Blood test detects cancer before major symptoms appear

Scientists in Britain have developed a new blood test that can help detect cancer in humans

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Scientists in Britain have developed a new blood test that can help detect cancer in people who do not have specific symptoms but are more specific, such as unexplained weight loss or extreme fatigue.

Once approved, the test will allow for some early detection of some cancers that have so far been diagnosed late, making it easier to treat them before the tumors metastasize, as the test can also show if the cancer has spread to body.

So far there is no clear procedure by which a person with vague symptoms that could be cancer, will be referred by doctors for further examination. Often the patient is examined by a physician or general practitioner, who, if he can not diagnose any obvious symptoms, sends the patient home with the advice to return if his symptoms worsen.

"The problem in these cases is that if someone does have cancer, it continues to grow and by the time the patient goes back to the doctor, the cancer is often quite advanced," said lead researcher Dr. James Larkin of the University of Oxford, according to the British newspaper "Guardian". Although it is difficult to estimate how many people fall into this category, it is estimated that there are several thousand in a country at any given time.

The new test uses the technology of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), which detects small molecules, metabolites, in the blood. Healthy ones have a different "profile" of metabolites than those with local or metastatic cancer.

The researchers, who made the relevant publication in the American medical journal "Clinical Cancer Research", analyzed blood samples from 300 patients with non-specific but worrying symptoms of cancer and found that the test can correctly "catch" about 95% (19 out of 20) of people with cancers.

At the moment the test cannot distinguish the type of tumors, but with its improvement in the future it could achieve this too.

The test also has 94% accuracy in distinguishing between local or metastatic cancer. It is thus the first blood test that can detect if the cancer has spread, without diagnosing exactly what type of tumor it is. The test will now be tested on a larger number of patients (2.000 to 3.000) over the next two years and will then be approved by the UK regulator.

Source: RES-EAP