Grail blood test shows promise in early detection of lung cancer

Vanessa Hillary

A new blood test that allows doctors to detect 10 types of cancer years before a person becomes sick with the disease has been developed by scientists.

He said: ‘Far too many cancers are picked up too late, when it is no longer possible to operate and the chances of survival are slim.

"What we're generally seeing is a strong blood-based biological signal for cancers that have a high mortality and are typically not screened for", Dr. Anne-Renee Hartman, vice president of clinical development at Grail, said in a telephone interview.

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

The number of patients in whom cancers were detected was small.

The results showed that the test most accurately diagnosed ovarian cancer, with 90% accuracy, followed by hepatobiliary - a highly lethal cancer that attacks the liver and gallbladder - and pancreatic cancer, with 80% accuracy.

The liquid biopsy uses three tests to search for DNA signatures in a patient's blood that indicate the presence of various types of cancer.

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

‘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'. Stevens tells The Guardian "new techniques" such as cancer blood tests could "unlock enormous survival gains", for cancer patients.

According to the abstract, the test called CancerSEEK was applied to 1,005 patients with non-metastatic cancers and the sensitivities ranged from 69 to 98 percent for the detection of ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, and esophagus for which there are no screening tests available for average-risk individuals. It detected head and neck cancer in 56% of patients, lung cancer in 59% of patients, and bowel cancer in 2 out of 3 patients.

Of them, the most sensitive was able to spot cancers 90 percent of the time. According to The Telegraph, the UK's National Health Service (NHS) could start using the blood test within the next five years, but some state that figure is overly ambitious.

Grail's lung cancer data comes from a wider study that eventually aims to enroll 15,000 participants and cover 20 different types of cancers.

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