By: April Carson
A new study has found that a simple blood test could detect multiple cancer types in patients before they develop any apparent symptoms. In response, doctors have told health services to prepare for a new era of cancer screening.
The Pathfinder study was a blood test given to adults over the age of 50. With this, they were able to detect dozens of new cases of disease that had gone unnoticed. The majority of these cancers were at an early stage and could be treated easily.
This new study will have a big impact on how we screen for cancer in the future. It is possible that, with this blood test, we could find cancers earlier and save lives. However, more research is needed to confirm these results. In the meantime, doctors are urging health services to be prepared for a new era of cancer screening.
This is the first time that patients and their doctors have received results from the Galleri test, which looks for cancer DNA in the blood. These results will guide any cancer investigations and necessary treatment.
The Galleri test has been given the label of a "gamechanger" by NHS England, who is responsible for reporting results from a trial with 165,000 people next year. Doctors have high hopes that the test will save lives by detecting cancer earlier on, although the technology isn't perfected yet.
Dr. Deb Schrag, a lead researcher on the study at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York told attendees of the European Society for Medical Oncology meeting in Paris that many of these diagnosed cancers had no standard screening process prior to this experiment.
"We are not sure yet if this will turn out to be a life-saving test," Schrag said. "But it is hard to overstate how excited we are about these results."
The 6,621 adults aged 50 and over who participated in the Pathfinder study were offered the Galleri blood test. Out of the 6,529 volunteers, only92 received a positive result for cancer.
In total, 35 people out of the 2,500 studied had some form of cancer- either solid tumours or blood related. Out of these 35 people, 1 woman was diagnosed with both breast and endometrial tumours.
The researchers found that the test was able to pick up on 11 different types of cancer, including ovarian, pancreatic, oesophageal and bowel.
Schrag discovered that not only did the test identify the disease, but it also showed where in the body cancer was located. This allowed doctors to prioritize and get follow-up work done more quickly so they could confirm a cancer diagnosis. “The signal of origin was very helpful in directing the type of work-up,” said Schrag. “When the blood test was positive, it typically took under three months to get the work-ups completed.”
Out of the 19 solid tumours that were identified by the test, some are more difficult to detect than others. For example, ovarian and pancreatic cancers are often not caught until they have reached a late stage- making them harder to treat and increasing the chances of poor survival rates.
Out of the 36 cancers detected, 14 were caught early and 26 were not routine screenings. The majority of these cases fell under blood cancer.
Out of the people who received a positive result from the blood test, only 38% had cancer. In contrast, 99.1% of those with negative results did not have cancer--meaning that most healthy individuals received accurate results.
The study found that the blood test had a specificity of 99.1% and a sensitivity of 38%. This means that the blood test is very good at identifying those who do not have cancer (false negatives are rare) but not as good at identifying those who do have cancer (false positives are common).
Schrag explained that the test is not accurate enough yet to screen everyone, and people should continue with regular cancer screenings for now. However, she believes this technology shows a potential for what cancer screening could look in the future.
According to Fabrice André, the director of research at Gustave Roussy cancer centre in Villejuif, France, "In the next five years we will need additional medical staff including doctors, surgeons and nurses. We will also require more diagnostic and treatment infrastructure to care for the rising number of people who will be identified by multi-cancer early detection tests."
The director of evidence and implementation at Cancer Research UK, Naser Turabi, said that blood tests for multiple types of cancer used to only be found in science fiction, but now they are showing promise for patients.
Research projects such as this one evaluating the effectiveness of a blood test in detecting late-stage cancers is crucial for making progress against these diseases and giving more patients the chance of surviving. The Pathfinder trial results give us greater insight into how often cancer is found by this blood test in people who haven’t been previously diagnosed, which will help inform future decisions about patient care.
"This study is a good first step, but we will need data from larger studies to fully assess this test and other similar tests in development. We also need to understand whether people actually survive for longer after their cancer is picked up."
The Pathfinder trial results are encouraging, but we must remember that this is just a first step. We need data from larger studies to fully assess the potential of this blood test in detecting late-stage cancers. Only then can we make informed decisions about patient care.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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