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We could be entering a whole new era when it comes to detecting cancer at an early stage, The Guardian reports.
The breakthrough consists of researchers developing a method where it is possible to identify DNA from many different types of cancer in a single blood sample.
The test was tried out in a large study with 6,600 participants and identified dozens of new cancer cases. Many of these cases were at an early stage and three-quarters were cancer types not included in normal cancer tests.
"Blood tests that can identify several different types of cancer have been seen as pure science fiction, but now it is an area of research that shows great potential," says Naser Turabi of the charity organization Cancer Research UK, in a comment to The Guardian.
Because the test is already able to show at an early stage whether there are cancer cells in the blood, the doctors have a better chance of treating the cancer. In addition, the test can show where the cancer is located, which further increases the chances of successful treatment.
An even larger study with 165,000 participants is currently underway and will be completed next year. The researchers hope it will verify the results of this first study. The method needs further development before it can be used in healthcare, but it gives hope for new possibilities in the future.
"This gives us a glimpse of what the future may hold with a very different approach to how we screen for cancer," says Deb Schrag, researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the US.