Johns Hopkins researchers develop a single blood test that screens for eight common cancers
CancerSEEK is an “enormously exciting” step forwards one of the biggest goals in medicine - a universal blood test for cancer.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center have developed a single blood test that can detect eight common cancer types through assessment of the levels of cancer proteins and the presence of cancer gene mutations from DNA circulating in the blood. The test screens for eight common cancers - ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, colorectum, lung, or breast. Five of the cancers covered by the test currently have no screening test.
The test, called CancerSEEK is a unique, noninvasive test and can, in principle, be administered by primary care providers at the time of other routine blood tests. The investigators envision that the CancerSEEK test will eventually cost less than $500. The earlier a cancer is found, the greater the chance of being able to treat it.
CancerSEEK looks for mutations in 16 genes that regularly arise in cancer and eight proteins that are often released. It was applied to 1,005 patients with non-metastatic, clinically detected. CancerSEEK tests were positive in a median of 70% of the eight cancer types. The sensitivities ranged from 69% to 98% for the detection of five cancer types (ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, and esophagus) for which there are no screening tests available for average-risk individuals. The specificity of CancerSEEK was > 99%: only 7 of 812 healthy controls scored positive.
"The use of a combination of selected biomarkers for early detection has the potential to change the way we screen for cancer, and it is based on the same rationale for using combinations of drugs to treat cancers," says Nickolas Papadopoulos, senior author, and professor of oncology and pathology at Johns Hopkins. Professor Richard Marais, Cancer Research UK, and Professor Paul Pharoah, University of Cambridge, said that CancerSEEK is an interesting research step. More work is needed to assess how the test performs when cancers are less advanced. The sensitivity of the test for stage 1 cancers in the study was only 40%.