The test, PanSeer, can detect growths years before cancer symptoms begin.
A large team of researchers developed the test in China. It is a type of liquid biopsy. According to the recent research, the test operated with 95% accuracy when it found evidence of cancer in people without symptoms who then go on to be diagnosed.
We demonstrated that five types of cancer can be detected through a DNA methylation-based blood test up to four years before conventional diagnosis.Nature Communications
Other blood tests have been able to detect cancer early before. However, this study is rare in its ability to detect cancer prior to symptoms starting. It doesn’t guess at a future disease. Instead, it works to identify cancerous cells that haven’t yet become symptomatic.
It does this by scanning part of DNA and looking for methyl groups. Methyl groups tend to be visible in tumour DNA. Then, an AI system takes the existence of methyl groups and goes on to assess if any of the DNA did come from tumours.
In total, the team used seven years worth of samples from people in China—from people with cancer, without it, and those who went on to have it—to train the AI.
Overall, the study has its limitations, but it is a promising step forward in liquid biopsy research. Larger studies need to conduct research to validate this study. Still, the research is valuable:
This is an exciting study which provides further confirmation that methylation-based assays can detect cell-free circulating tumour DNA and may form the basis for new screening tests that detect cancer at early stages. There is a need for such tests to screen for cancers for which there are currently are no effective screening paradigms.Dr. Eric Klein
Article source: The Guardian
Featured image source: AFP