A new blood test to screen for cancer

A new blood test to screen for cancer

A British Company called Oncimmune, hailing from Nottingham University, has developed a blood test that can show up the presence of lung cancer much earlier than X-Rays and CT scans can; the test, which kooks for certain proteins, could be applicable to many different types of cancer. 

New Blood test for cancer a breakthrough in detection

Cancer cells divide roughly 40 times before death occurs. Your death.

But even the best current cancer screening systems currently in use do not spot a cancer until it has already divided about 20 times. Physical symptoms of a tumour might not even appear until the division reaches 30 times.

Now two groups of scientists from Kansas University Hospital in America and Nottingham University in England  have developed a simple blood test which measures antibodies automatically produced by the immune system in response to the first sign of a cancer cell. The test was announced as long ago as 2009 and Christopher Ottinger at KUH is an early adopter. He believes it can show up the presence of lung cancer long before it appears on a CT scan or an X-Ray. 

The UK group in Nottingham have formed a company called Oncimmune, who say that the test can identify a cancer which is only usually diagnosed at a late stage. This give the patient a fighting chance of beating the cancer, whereas only 15 per cent of lung cancer patients historically have beaten 5 years.

Although the test was originally developed for lung cancer, its logic can be applied to any cancer. It could be the best screening test for cancer around in a couple of years.

As the first cancer cell develops, so it produces irregular proteins not normally present in the body. The immune system produces antibodies against these antigens, as they are called, immediately and so the test can pick up a cancer right from the outset. A pilot test, called the EarlyCDT-lung test, on lung cancer showed remarkable success with smokers in the USA..

The test will shortly be available in the UK but privately. Before the NHS adopts the test, the usual clinical trials will be needed.

Chris Woollams, former Oxford University Biochemist and a founder of CANCERactive said,"Apparently in the American Pilot test, merely having the test encouraged some smokers to wake up and stop smoking because they tested clear and felt they now had a 'second chance'.

Oncimmune believes that the system is applicable to almost any cancer and plans tests with breast cancer next!

Frankly, any test that does away with screening mammograms has got to be a good thing, especially if it proves 100 per cent accurate. (Mind you 60 per cent accuracy would be better than mammography, if the figures presented at the European Breast Cancer Symposium a couple of years ago are to be believed!)

And accuracy is a very big issue. We have already witnessed twenty years of the PSA test (which relies on measuring a protein antigen produced by the cancer), and even today some cancer centres say it is wonderful, while others deride it. Figures show at least one in eight PSA tests are inaccurate. So is this new test better, or are we getting carried away again?

If we can detect cancers earlier and when they are smaller a whole new breed of treatments could be applicable - like ablation, cryoablation, HIFU, the Nanoknife. We covered research from the Karolinska where women with small breast tumours could have a procedure like the Nanoknife during their lunch hour and go back to work in the afternoon!

On balance this new test seems excellent news and we are all for it at CANCERactive."


1. https://www.kansas.com/news/local/article1061893.html

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