A New Blood Test Could Detect Cancer Before Symptoms Start

Photographed by Megan Madden.
Early detection can be key in treating cancer, and researchers say that a new blood test could detect cancer even before symptoms begin to show.
According to a study published in the Journal of Science Translational Medicine, researchers at Johns Hopkins University have made strides in developing a blood test that could aid in early detection for breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, and ovarian cancer.
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While liquid biopsies to confirm cancer diagnoses exist, this would be the first to actually identify the existence of cancer in someone's body before they even begin exhibiting symptoms.
The test is still in its early days, but researchers say that it provides a path towards screening for cancer. It works by scanning blood for DNA that is released by cancerous tumors, using an approach called error correction sequencing (TEC-Seq). Cancer patients, the report says, had more of this type of DNA in their blood.
Using the test, they were able to detect 86 out of 138 stage 1 and stage 2 cancers — but while that's a significant number, it's not the best result. Researchers say that more work will have to be done, and more people (with more diverse types of cancer) will have to be studied in order for the test to be fully successful.
However, it's still a groundbreaking study that could come to save countless lives.
"The survival difference between late stage and early stage disease in these cancers would account for more than a million lives each year worldwide," Victor Velculescu, MD, PhD, professor of oncology and pathology at the Johns Hopkins University Kimmel Cancer Center, told TODAY.
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