Blood test could provide cancer diagnosis in days
A blood test that can spot mutated genes could lead to faster and less invasive cancer diagnosis, a promising new study has shown.
The Royal Brompton Hospital and the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) at Imperial College London pioneered the test that spots cancer-specific gene mutations in the DNA.
Consultant thoracic surgeon Eric Lim, who led the study, says the test could be a “game changer” and hopes it will soon be available to GPs.
Correctly identified cancer in 70%
As part of the research, the team looked at 223 patients who were all pre-surgery for known or suspected lung cancer.
The team was not told whether the patients had received a definitive diagnosis.
With the blood test, they managed to identify 3 common gene mutations in 7 out of 10 patients who later were diagnosed with cancer.
The cancer-specific gene mutations are not usually found in the blood of healthy people.
The researchers took samples from both the blood’s plasma and cancerous tissue to see how closely linked they were.
Not a biopsy alternative
While the results are encouraging, Mr Lim stresses the test will not replace biopsies for all patients.
He says the blood test would be used to save patients from having to go through unnecessary and invasive diagnostic procedures.
Biopsies are often taken with a needle and can sometimes lead to complications. The test would be less invasive yet still accurate for many patients.
If the patient was to receive a negative result from the blood test, Mr Lim says this does not rule out the presence of cancer cells and further tests or scans may still be required.
More research is now needed to move the test to the clinical testing stage.