Scientists have concluded that a simple blood test that can detect 50 types of cancer (even before the onset of typical signs of the diseases) is accurate enough to be used as a screening test for older people.
The research was published in the Annals of Oncology on Thursday. It found that the test could detect cancers with a high level of accuracy. It’s intended for people at greater risk of cancer over the age of 50.
Scientists said the test can detect cancer before any signs or symptoms appear, and has a low false-positive rate — just 0.5%.
Scientists conducting the study ran tests on 2,800 volunteers who have cancer and 1,200 who don’t. They said the test accurately identified when cancer was present at all stages and classes almost 52% of the time.
Developed by U.S.-based Grail, the test looks for chemical changes in genetic code that leak from tumors into the bloodstreams. Some aggressive cancers, like pancreatic and esophageal, are more likely than others to shed more into the blood.
Dr. Eric Klein, chairman of the Glickman Orulogical and Kidney Institute at Cleveland Clinic and first author, said that finding cancer early is “one of the most significant opportunities we have to reduce the burden of cancer.
“These data suggest that, if used alongside existing screening tests, the multi-cancer detection test could have profound impact on how cancer is detected and, ultimately, on public health.”
NHS England, Britain’s national healthcare system, will conduct a pilot for the test this fall. It will include about 140,000 volunteers and results are expected by 2023.