Johns Hopkins develops blood test for 8 cancers, 5 of which have no screening option

Researchers from Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center developed CancerSEEK, a single blood test that screens for eight common cancers, while also identifying the cancer's location.

CancerSEEK can be used by primary care providers to identify ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, colorectum, lung or breast cancer. Those eight cancers account for more than 60 percent of all U.S. related cancer deaths.

The test was developed by a team of researchers led by senior author Nicholas Papadopoulos, PhD. He said, "The use of a combination of selected biomarkers for early detection has the potential to change the way we screen for cancer, and it is based on the same rationale for using combinations of drugs to treat cancers."

CancerSEEK is a small panel test that detects mutations related to cancers. It specifically screens for 16 genes and eight proteins, touting a 99 percent specificity rate.

Ludwig Center Co-Director Kenneth Kinzler, PhD, said, "Very high specificity was essential because false-positive results can subject patients to unnecessary invasive follow-up tests and procedures to confirm the presence of cancer."

Researchers used the test on 812 controls, producing only seven false positives. Researchers also tested 1,005 patients with nonmetastatic cancers, between stage one and three. Researchers achieved a median sensitivity rate of 70 percent. The rate varied by cancer; for ovarian, sensitivity was 98 percent while breast cancer had 33 percent sensitivity. For the ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic and esophageal cancers — five which have no screening test — sensitivity was between 69 percent to 98 percent.

Ludwig Center Co-Director Bert Vogelstein said, "This test represents the next step in changing the focus of cancer research from late-stage disease to early disease, which I believe will be critical to reducing cancer deaths in the long term."

The team's findings were published in Science.

Researchers believe the test will eventually cost less than $500. Several additional large studies are underway.

To read more, click here.

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