A ‘game changing’ blood test could help detect pancreatic cancer early

Today came the remarkable news that researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the USA , and published in Science  have developed a non-invasive blood test that can detect 70% of eight common cancers, including pancreatic cancer – even at the early stages.

They have even said that this is relatively inexpensive; the same cost of a colonoscopy for example.

The way the test, known as CancerSEEK, works is to detect DNA mutations and proteins that are ‘shedded’ by the tumours into the bloodstream. The challenge has been that these circulating DNA mutations and proteins are small and have previously been difficult to detect, especially in early tumours.

8 out of 10 patients are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when it has spread to other parts of the body making the disease incurable, so we desperately need better ways to diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier to give patients the best chance of survival.

This blood test is a really exciting development. While a 70% success rate needs to improve, the fact that it can detect some early pancreatic cancers could be game-changing for patients.

This test will be particularly important for those who are suffering vague but persistent symptoms (such as early pancreatic cancer patients) and gives a potential tool for GPs to rule cancer in or out.

The caveat is that it now needs to be tested on people without a cancer diagnosis to see if very early disease can be detected even when patients have little or no symptoms, and for it to be used as a screening tool in those at high risk of developing cancer.

As a rare 10 year pancreatic cancer survivor, I will be watching developments closely, but I feel buoyed by this news that there could soon be a non-invasive and inexpensive blood test to detect pancreatic cancer early and ultimately improve survival for patients.


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