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Accurate blood test for cancer developed

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Blood test developed that  is 95% accurate for breast and lung cancer.

What if you were at high risk for lung or breast cancer and could find out if you had it before symptoms even developed? Researchers at University of Kansas have developed a blood test that can tell if you have cancer within an hour that they say showed 95% accuracy among participants included in their study.

The researchers say because some people at are at high risk for cancer of the lung from smoking, or breast cancer due to family history, the idea would be to have patients get tested quarterly. If the test is positive, it can be repeated again to see if imaging and other invasive tests are needed. If the results are negative a second time, you can go home worry free - unless your doctor recommends traditional testing like imaging studies.

Early detection of the disease leads to the best outcomes, which is why testing the blood for early stages of cancer could save lives.

Researchers Stefan Bossmann, professor of chemistry, and Deryl Troyer, professor of anatomy and physiology developed the test. Both are also researchers affiliated with Kansas State University's Johnson Cancer Research Center and the University of Kansas Cancer Center.

Troyer said in a press release, "We see this as the first step into a new arena of investigation that could eventually lead to improved early detection of human cancers. Right now the people who could benefit the most are those classified as at-risk for cancer, such as heavy smokers and people who have a family history of cancer."

Breast and lung cancer are usually found in stage 2. There are 4 stages classifying most cancer. stage 1 disease doesn’t have any symptoms to alert patients or their physicians to the need for testing.

Bossmann says “…nobody knows they’re in stage 1. There is often not a red flag to warn that something is wrong. Meanwhile, the person is losing critical time."

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The blood test finds cancer by detecting the activity of an enzyme and can also be detected from a urine sample.

Iron nanoparticles coated with amino acids and a dye are mixed with small amounts of urine or blood samples. The amino acids and dye interact with the patient’s enzymes in a particular pattern that helps doctors tell what type of cancer might be present in just 60 minutes.

“These enzyme patterns can also help distinguish between cancer and an infection or other diseases that commonly occur in the human body," Bossmann said. "For example, a person who smokes a lot of cigars may develop an inflammation in their lungs. That will drive up some of the markers in the test but not all of them. Doctors will be able to see whether there was too much smoke inhalation or if there is something more serious going on. False-positives are something that we really want to avoid."

The test could also be used for monitoring patients being treated for cancer and after surgery to make sure an entire tumor has been removed.

The test was 95% accurate for finding cancer in study participants in early stages and participants with known lung or breast cancer.

Troy and Bossmann, in collaboration with Dr. Stephen Williamson at the University of Kansas Medical Center, plan to start working on a blood test to detect pancreatic cancer that also grows without symptoms in early stages in October.

Kansas State University
September 16, 2012

Image credit:
CDC Public Health Image Library