A simple blood test could be on the way to replacing the biopsy as the gold standard for detecting cancer, saving lives and money, according to researchers at the Royal Brompton Hospital and the UK’s National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI), at Imperial College London.
When cells die, including cancer cells, DNA is released into the bloodstream. The new blood test is able to detect three common cancer-specific gene mutations in the blood. Certain gene patterns are specific to cancer but vary according to cancer types. Lung and colorectal cancer have similar gene patterns, so the researchers expect similar tests to be useful for both types.
The test is not currently seen as an alternative to biopsy for all patients, but if a patient’s blood test shows a positive result, it would save them from going through biopsy before moving on to treatment. Not having to wait for the biopsy would also mean they could find out the result sooner and move on to treatment more quickly, increasing chances for survival.
The research team is “immensely excited” about the potential for the blood test to be used in a clinical setting. There is more research needed to validate the findings and to make the blood test “even more effective as a diagnostic tool.”