Scientists have created a blood test which is highly effective in detecting cancer in those with worrying symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss and fatigue. If the test is validated, it could significantly improve survival rates by diagnosing cancer much earlier and thus allowing patients to receive more effective treatment. The test can also show whether the cancer has spread.
NHS rapid diagnostic centres are being set up to aid the earlier detection of cancer, however, it can ordinarily be difficult for GPs to know which patients have a severe undiagnosed condition or a less troubling, mild ailment when presenting with general and nonspecific symptoms. This new development could be a significant boost to primary care’s diagnostic armoury.
The study of 300 people, published in the Clinical Cancer Research journal, demonstrated that the test was able to detect cancer correctly 19 out of 20 times, while also between localised and metastatic cancer with 94% accuracy. It cannot currently pinpoint the exact type of tumour, but that is the primary goal going forward.
The next step is to confirm the accuracy of the test in 2,000 to 3000 British patients with nonspecific symptoms, which it is hoped will occur within the next two years. This data would then be sent to national regulatory agencies responsible for authorising such tests.