Dr. Nickolas Papadopoulos, a Greek Professor of Oncology and Pathology at John Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore has led a team of scientists that have together made a major breakthrough towards developing a single blood test that could identify tumours in 8 cancer types long before a person becomes aware of symptoms.
The new DNA blood test, which is sensitive to both mutated DNA that floats freely in the blood and cancer-related proteins, gave a positive result approximately 70% of the time across eight of the most common cancers when tested in more than 1,000 patients.
98% accuracy in detecting ovarian cancers and less than 40% in detecting breast cancers.
In the future, such a test could be used in routine screening programmes to significantly increase the proportion of patients who get treatment early, at a time before cancer would typically show up on conventional scans.
Five of them, ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic and esophageal cancers, currently have no screening tests.
It’s the kind of test that Dr. Papadopoulos thinks could have saved his uncle’s life, had it been around a few years ago. “He had no symptoms until a cough showed up,” he says. But when it didn’t go away he went in for an X-ray, and there on the radiograph were the lesions. Dozens of them, filling his entire chest cavity. The doctors sequenced the tumors, and got him signed up for a clinical trial for a new, targeted drug. It worked for a few of them, shrinking them back to almost nothing. But the rest developed resistance.
“He was supposed to only live two months, and the drugs prolonged his life by a year. But that year wasn’t good.” says Papadopoulos.
“I think it’s time to start thinking more about detecting cancers early and less about treating them when they are late.” – Dr. Nick Papadopoulos
This Cancer Blood Test could cost less than $500 dollars in the future.