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New blood test to help detect cancer, ‘months or years’ before symptoms

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A NEW blood test scientists say is able to detect certain types of cancer several years before a person falls ill has been hailed as a breakthrough.

A trial of about 1600 people found the non-invasive procedure to identify DNA markers works with up to 90 per cent accuracy, the authors say. The test was used to detect genetic traces of multiple cancers, including pancreatic and ovarian diseases, according to the study.

The findings will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago this weekend.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said such advances in medicine could “dramatically transform” care.

Dr Eric Klein, lead author, of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, told the Daily Telegraph: “This is potentially the holy grail of cancer research, to find cancers that are currently hard to cure at an earlier stage when they are easier to cure, and we hope this test could save many lives.

“Most cancers are detected at a late stage but this ‘liquid biopsy’ gives us the opportunity to find them months or years before someone would develop symptoms and be diagnosed.”

The study examined 749 people without cancer and 878 who had been newly diagnosed with the disease but not yet been treated.

The test detected 90 per cent of ovarian, 80 per cent of pancreatic and two-thirds of bowel cancer cases (66 per cent), according to the research. It was 77 per cent accurate in diagnosing lymphoma, 73 per cent accurate for myeloma and 80 per cent accurate for liver and gall bladder cancers.

Triple-negative breast, lung, oesophagus, head and neck cancers were also picked up with more than 50 per cent accuracy.

However, it was less effective at detecting stomach, uterine and early-stage prostate cancer, the authors said.

“This approach is promising as a multi-cancer screening test,” they said.

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