Scientists have identified more than 800 markers in the blood of patients with cancer that could help lead to a single blood test for early detection of many types of cancer, according to research presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference in Liverpool, England.

This is the first time that cancer-specific blood markers have been comprehensively reviewed and identified for further clinical development. This study, by the United Kingdom Early Cancer Detection Consortium and funded by Cancer Research UK, analyzed 19,000 scientific papers and found more than 800 biomarkers.

The aim of this research is to develop a screening test from a single blood sample for multiple cancer types. All cancers produce markers in the blood, so it could be feasible to develop a general screening test for many different forms of the disease.

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Developing more ways to spot cancers earlier, including research into new screening technologies, could help give more options for curative treatment. This study could open the way for less invasive, new screening tests that could detect more cancers, possibly including some rare types, at an early stage when they are more likely to be treatable.

“This is a new approach to early detection and the first time such a systematic review has been done. A single blood-based screening test would be a game changer for early detection of cancer which could help make it a curable disease for many more patients. We believe that we’ve identified all the relevant biomarkers; the next step is working out which ones work the best for spotting cancers,” said study author Professor Ian Cree, MD, PhD, a Cancer Research UK funded scientist at the University of Warwick and University Hospital in Coventry in the United Kingdom.

The identified biomarkers will be reviewed and categorized before they are developed further in clinical laboratory studies.

“This is an innovative and promising new approach. And although in its early stages, it shows how our increased understanding of cancers’ ‘markers’ and new technologies are combining to offer new opportunities to detect cancer sooner. Diagnosing cancer at an early stage generally means more effective treatment and that translates into better survival. Our goal over the next 20 years is that 3 in 4 cancer patients will survive at least 10 years after their diagnosis,” said Sara Hiom, PhD, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis.