New blood test can detect eight types of cancer

Researchers have developed a single blood test that screens for eight common types of cancer – and helps to identify its location.

The test, which was created by the John Hopkins Cancer Centre, is called CancerSEEK. It simultaneously evaluates levels of eight cancer proteins (which account for more than 60 percent of cancer deaths) and the presence of cancer gene mutations from circulating DNA in the blood.

Until now there was no screening test for five of the eight cancers covered. The test was carried out on 812 healthy controls and produced only seven false-positive results.

The test was also carried out on 1005 patients with nonmetastatic, stages I to III cancers of the ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, colorectum, lung or breast. The median overall sensitivity, or the ability to find cancer, was 70 per cent and ranged from a high of 98 per cent for ovarian cancer to a low of 33 per cent for breast cancer. For the five cancers that have no screening tests (ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic and esophageal) sensitivity ranged from 69 to 98 per cent.

The researchers say that a test that will be used routinely for cancer screening must have a cost in line with other currently available screening tests for single cancers, such as colonoscopy. They predict that CancerSEEK test will eventually cost less than $500 (£360).

The study’s senior author, Nickolas Papadopoulos, said: ‘The use of a combination of selected biomarkers for early detection has the potential to change the way we screen for cancer, and it is based on the same rationale for using combinations of drugs to treat cancers.’