Researchers have taken a big step towards developing a test that can detect cancer at early stage. A test can tell people if they have cancer long before the first symptoms show up.
Dr. Victor Velculescu, professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, said that this is one of the studies that have looked directly at early-stage cancers. The test scans blood for DNA fragments released by cancerous tumors.
According to him, we can find a high fraction of early-stage patients having alterations in their blood.
The team of Johns Hopkins University said that the blood test detected the majority of cancers in people with four of the biggest cancer killers: breast, colon, lung and ovarian cancer.
The test spotted early stage colon cancer 71 percent of the time, breast and lung cancer 59 percent of the time, and ovarian cancer 68 percent of the time. Overall they were able to detect 86 out of 138 stage I and stage II cancers.
Researchers must find ways to spot DNA mutations linked to cancer while ignoring natural and harmless mutations that regularly occur in humans to develop a genetic blood test for cancer.
Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society stated that the important thing is to distinguish cancers that will hurt people versus cancers that may not have a long-term impact on survival.
The difference between late-stage and early-stage detection in these cancers leads to over a million lives worldwide each year. The ability to catch early stage ovarian cancer is particularly needed.