A new RNA test of blood platelets can be used to detect, classify, and pinpoint the location of cancer by analyzing a sample equivalent to 1 drop of blood. Using this new method for blood-based RNA tests of blood platelets, researchers were able to identify cancer with 96% accuracy, according to a study published in Cancer Cell (doi:10.1016/j.ccell.2015.09.018).

“Being able to detect cancer at an early stage is vital. We have studied how a whole new blood-based method of biopsy can be used to detect cancer, which in the future renders an invasive cell tissue sample unnecessary in diagnosing lung cancer, for instance. In the study, nearly all forms of cancer were identified, which proves that blood-based biopsies have an immense potential to improve early detection of cancer,” according to coauthor Jonas Nilsson, PhD, cancer researcher at Umeå University in Sweden.

In the study, researchers from Umeå University, in collaboration with researchers from the Netherlands and the United States, investigated how a new method of blood-based RNA tests of platelets could be used to detect and classify cancer.

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The results show that blood platelets could constitute a complete and easily accessible blood-based source for sampling and hence be used in diagnosing cancer as well as in the choice of treatment method.

Blood samples from 283 persons were studied, of which 228 had some form of cancer and 55 showed no evidence of cancer. By comparing the blood samples RNA profiles, researchers could identify the presence of cancer with an accuracy of 96% among patients. Among the 39 patients in the study in whom an early detection of cancer was made, 100% of the cases could be identified and classified.

In follow-up tests using the same method, researchers could identify the origin of tumors with a so far unsurpassed accuracy of 71% in patients with diagnosed cancer in the lung, breast, pancreas, brain, liver, colon, and rectum. The samples could also be sorted in subdivisions depending on molecular differences in the cancer form, which can be of great use in the choice of treatment.