Scientists in the US have developed a blood test that can detect 14 different types of cancer and researchers say the results are up to 98% accurate.
Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study involved a technique called immunosignaturing, which profiles the entire population of antibodies circulating in the blood at any given time. Current tests often only measure individual cancer biomarkers, which frequently lack the sensitivity and resolution to show up as a positive diagnosis.
The technique itself initially stemmed from a project looking at the immune system and has surprisingly led to some promising cancer research. As Professor Phillip Stafford from the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University explains “We had been putting out papers that described immunosignaturing, which is a technique that we’ve found that can distinguish between people with different types of diseases”.
“What we wanted to do was find out if technology that we’d developed could work for multiple different types of diseases”.
Every person has an immunosignature and it is quite similar to a fingerprint. When a drop of blood is tested, antibodies form an individual image of immune activity.
By identifying abnormalities in immunisignatures, certain cancers can be detected very early on and with a high level of accuracy. For many, this could potentially be life saving.
The blood test can be used to identify 14 of the more common cancers such as lung, prostate, ovarian and brain cancer before symptoms emerge.
Unfortunately, some cancers are very difficult to detect early on, and all too often, those suffering with cancer, are unaware they have the disease until they start experiencing symptoms. This new blood test would allow patients to receive treatment as soon as possible, giving them the best possible chance to beat the disease.
As the research continues to develop, Professor Stafford hopes to be able to easily detect other and rarer forms of cancer, however this requires a database of identified forms of cancer so the researchers have something to compare patient’s samples with. If a patient’s immunosignature looks very similar or dissimilar to the signature in the database, then scientists can conclude that they have either a high probability or low probability of having that cancer.
While there is still work to do to ensure the test is effective for everyone, the researchers hope the findings will result in lives being saved due to early detection.