A universal blood test for any type of cancer may soon become available according to a new study from the University of California, San Diego. They have found a new way to detect cancer in the blood that could both alert doctors to the presence of cancer, and tell them where in the body the tumour is located.
The new study, published online in the journal Nature Genetics, describes the discovery of a new clue found in the blood. Although the discovery is preliminary, the team hopes to soon advance to the clinical stage where it can be tested. If the testing proceeds as hoped, it could make cancer diagnosis faster and more effective.
“We made this discovery by accident,” explained study senior author Kun Zhang. But we were also seeing signals from other cells and realized that if we integrate both sets of signals together, we could actually determine the presence or absence of a tumour, and where the tumour is growing.
“But we were also seeing signals from other cells and realised that if we integrate both sets of signals together, we could actually determine the presence or absence of a tumour, and where the tumour is growing,” Zhang added.
Researchers put together a database of the complete CpG methylation patterns of 10 different normal tissues (liver, intestine, colon, lung, brain, kidney, pancreas, spleen, stomach and blood). They analysed tumour samples and blood samples from cancer patients to put together a database of cancer-specific genetic markers.
Blood samples from individuals with and without tumours were screened. They looked for signals of the cancer markers and the tissue-specific methylation patterns. The test works like a dual authentication process. The combination of both signals, above a statistical cutoff, is required to assign a positive match, researchers said.