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New blood test can detect and locate any type of cancer

Monday 13th March 2017
Scientists have developed a blood test that is able to accurately detect and locate any type of cancer in the human body. Image: wildpixel via iStock
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US scientists have developed a new blood test that looks as though it will be able to detect the presence of cancer anywhere in the body.

This significant breakthrough from bioengineers at the University of California San Diego is made all the more impressive due to the fact that the researchers stumbled upon this discovery by complete accident. But their chance findings - published in the scientific journal Nature Genetics - could help to speed up cancer diagnosis and access to treatment for thousands of patients across the world.

Blood tests have long been used to detect signs of cancer in the body, but traditionally further scans or biopsies are then needed to find out where exactly a tumour is located, which can prolong distress for patients.

However, the new study from the University of California found that when tumours begin to grow, they kill healthy cells and secrete their own DNA into the bloodstream. The scientists were able to test for higher-than-average concentrations of this DNA in patients' blood samples, allowing them to more accurately locate the exact position of a tumour.

Lead author of the study Kun Zhang explained: "We made this discovery by accident. Initially, we were taking the conventional approach and just looking for cancer cell signals and trying to find out where they were coming from.

"But we were also seeing signals from other cells and realised that if we integrate both sets of signals together, we could actually determine the presence or absence of a tumour and where the tumour is growing."

The team have now created a database of the CpG methylation of ten different types of tissue from the liver, colon, intestines, lung, brain, kidney, spleen, stomach, pancreas and blood to enable them to match blood sample data with different cancer biomarkers to assist with future accurate diagnoses.

Written by Martin Lambert

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