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New Blood Test Could Make Cancer Detection Easier

December 30, 2015

Today, the primary way we diagnose cancer is through tissue sampling. Testing the cells’ proteins, DNA and RNA also can detect cancer in some patients.

However, a recent study indicates that there could be a much simpler way to diagnose cancer: a blood test.

Researchers at Umeå University in Sweden recently developed a new test that relied on a single drop of blood to detect cancer with 96 percent accuracy.

The study involved 283 patients, 228 of whom already had cancer. Researchers looked at blood platelets — cells that circulate within the blood and come together when a blood vessel is damaged (like, for example, when you cut yourself). Researchers looked for platelet RNA profiles that had been affected by cancer tumors. RNA is an essential molecule is the body that, combined with DNA, creates protein. Tumors that impact platelet RNA profiles leave evidence of cancer in your blood.

Researchers discovered that finding and sampling these affected platelets could make cancer detection easier. Testing blood-based RNA correctly identified cancer in 96 percent of cases and the location of the tumor with 71-percent accuracy. Cancer was detected early in 39 study participants, potentially saving their lives. The approach also enabled doctors to clearly pinpoint differences in the cancers that may help them choose the best treatment for patients.

Researchers said that the blood test identified nearly all forms of cancer in the study and may improve early detection of the disease. These results are so promising because early detection saves lives. Blood-based biopsy also provides an alternative to invasive tissue sampling, because only one drop of blood is required for testing.

This year, nearly 1.7 million people will be diagnosed with cancer and nearly 590,000 people will die from this disease. However, these studies highlight the progress we have made in the battle against cancer. From early detection to better treatment, these advancements give us more hope that we can save thousands of lives.