‘Revolutionary’ cancer blood test developed
A new blood test to detect oesophageal cancer has been hailed as ‘revolutionary’ in a new study.
The new test, developed at Swansea University, could help detect the cancer earlier than ever.
Often detected too late
Currently, the only way to detect oesophageal cancer is via an uncomfortable endoscopy – a tube with a camera put down a person's throat.
As this cancer type often doesn’t present many symptom at early stages it’s often discovered late, meaning only 15% of people diagnosed survive more than five years.
With the new test, the cancer could be discovered before symptoms begin to show.
Identifies mutated blood cells
Professor Gareth Jenkins, who led the study, says the test identifies the number of mutated cells in a person's blood.
Healthy people usually have 5.2 mutated red cells per million. The figure for those with oesophageal cancer goes as high as 42.9 per million.
It is hoped the test, which only costs £35 and takes just a few hours to perform, will lead to earlier detection and better survival rates.
The researcher team says that, in theory, this test could be used to detect a number of other cancers.
Improving survival rates
Speaking at the British Science Festival, Professor Jenkins said they chose to focus on oesophageal cancer first because of its poor survival rate.
Dr Aine McCarthy, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information officer, says tests using blood samples to detect background DNA damage as a sign of cancer are “exciting”.
She hopes the tests could lead to more cases of oesophageal cancer being diagnosed in the early stages.
But she agreed with Professor Jenkins in saying that more large-scale studies are needed to confirm the results and show the test is reliable before it can be used in the clinic.