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Not quite the "Holy Grail" cancer blood test yet

Professor Gordon Wishart, Chief Medical Officer at Check4Cancer comments on yesterday's front page Telegraph article ("Holy Grail" cancer blood test) which suggests that this blood test could be used for cancer screening in the NHS within 5 years.

Prof. Wishart says: "The technique of detecting DNA or cancer-related proteins in the blood of patients with cancer is not new, and in fact the research paper on which the Telegraph paper was based was published in Science in January 2018.

Research to date suggests that the release of cancer DNA into the bloodstream is associated with late stage disease, and this was confirmed in this study where the majority of patients with cancer had stage 2 or 3 disease. While this technology might help diagnosed those cancers which are likely to present with symptoms at a later stage (ovary, lung, pancreas, bowel), it is unlikely to improve current screening programmes that diagnose breast or cervical cancer where detection and treatment of pre-invasive carcinoma allows prevention of invasive cancer. In fact, the reported study only diagnosed 33% of the breast cancers that were assessed.

The area where this technology may have an earlier and greater impact, is where detection of a genetic mutation or molecular marker in the bloodstream leads to treatment by an associated targeted therapy at an earlier stage."

For a more balanced review of this paper, please follow this link: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-00926-5.

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