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Breakthrough Blood Test May Extend Mesothelioma Survival

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Label: Cancer


Just last week, MesotheliomaHelp reported on a corporate partnership for blood test tools that will bring improved results in the detection of key lung cancer mutations. Blood biopsies are shown to be fast and accurate, as well as less stressful on the patients. Now, in another breakthrough using liquid biopsies, researchers report success in the early detection and screening for multiple cancers using one tool.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have developed the CancerSeek blood test that is able to screen for eight different types of cancers and can help pinpoint the location of the tumor. In a recent study of 1,005 cancer patients, the results had a “greater than 99 percent specificity for cancer,” according to a Jan. 19 press release from Johns Hopkins University.

Bert Vogelstein, Johns Hopkins University
Expert Insight
“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.”

Although there are screening options for some cancers, such as breast and prostate,  mesothelioma, and many other cancers, are diagnosed after the patient goes to a doctor exhibiting some of the signature symptoms of cancer: unexplained weight loss, extreme fatigue and a persistent cough. CancerSeek results had a sensitivity ranging from 69 percent to 98 percent in five cancers that do not currently have any screening test availables, including ovarian, pancreatic, and esophageal cancers.

The test, according to the researchers, looks at eight common cancer proteins and the presence of cancer gene mutations from DNA circulating in the blood. The team developed a “small yet robust panel” that could detect at least one mutation and not lead to false-positives. The test is used for cancer detection only, and does not detect specific biomarkers to drive treatment.

“The use of a combination of selected biomarkers for early detection has the potential to change the way we screen for cancer…,” says Nickolas Papadopoulos, senior author and professor of oncology and pathology at Johns Hopkins.

Pleural mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the lungs caused by past exposure to asbestos, has a long incubation period where patients may not exhibit symptoms for decades after exposure. By then the disease is already at an advanced, incurable stage.

Early detection of cancer through screening reduces mortality from many cancers, including lung and colon, according to the National Cancer Society. When treating mesothelioma patients, the best outcome is achieved with early detection of the disease by increasing treatment options and improving the patients‘ quality of life while battling the cancer.

The  tests are still in the early stages of research and are not yet available; however, they may be helpful in diagnosing mesothelioma in the future. In fact, the team anticipates a relatively inexpensive test that may be conducted by a primary care provider.

Read the results of the study in the Jan. 18 issue of the journal Science.

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