People might be able to get a cancer test easier than ever expected. The liquid biopsy is a blood test, and it’s been an active area of research for diagnosing cancer for quite a while now.
The research is in its early phase, and the test is about a decade away from being available to the general public. But nonetheless, according to expert opinions, this could be extremely valuable.
“I think for early detection for cancers that are deadly and potentially curable in the early stage, this is potentially going to be a game-changer,” said Dr. John Lewis, of the department of oncology at the University of Alberta.
The test involves detecting changes in the bloodstream such as fragments of mutated DNA or some changes at a molecular level that indicate the presence of cancer. At the moment, cancer is being diagnosed via tissue sample biopsies which are a much more invasive method.
A liquid biopsy can be used for various purposes such as monitoring whether the cancer treatment is shrinking the tumor, for personalizing treatments that are based on the particular gene mutation that patients have and for detection as well.
For a study which has been recently published in Nature, a Toronto-based research team was able to train a computer to recognize chemical changes that are present in the bloodstream for people with early-stage cancers. The computer was even able to identify the type of cancer from a list.
Opening the door for early cancer detection
“This opens the door, it’s still in the research stage, but it opens the door of liquid biopsy for early cancer detection,” said study co-author Daniel De Carvalho, senior scientist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.
It’s also important to detect cancer as soon as possible. “The earlier we identify cancer, the easier it is to treat the patient.”
For these tests, “The goal is to find it while the tumor is so small that you can take it out,” said Rayjean Hung, a Canadian expert.
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