More than 800 cancer-specific blood markers have been identified according to research presented recently at the National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference (held 2–5 November, Liverpool, UK). The study, funded by Cancer Research UK, was carried out by the UK Cancer Detection Consortium and analyzed 19, 000 scientific papers to review and identify biomarkers for new screening technologies. The findings could lead to a single blood test for early detection of many types of cancer in future.
The study is described as the first time that cancer-specific blood markers have been comprehensively reviewed and identified for further clinical development. The research group carried out a systematic mapping review with an aim of establishing biomarkers that could potentially be utilized in the future to develop a screening test for the early detection of multiple types of cancers from a single blood sample.
Cancer survival rates in the UK are lower than those of some other western countries, which could be due to late diagnosis of the disease. In fact, in the UK only a limited proportion of cancer cases are detected via specific national screening programs or via incidental radiological findings. Developing new screening technologies could help increase options for curative treatments and save more lives in the future, as well as offering less invasive detection methods.
“This is a new approach to early detection and the first time such a systematic review has been done. A single blood-based screening test would be a game changer for early detection of cancer which could help make it a curable disease for many more patients,” explained author Ian Cree, a Cancer Research UK funded scientist at the University of Warwick and University Hospital in Coventry (UK). “We believe that we’ve identified all the relevant biomarkers; the next step is working out which ones work the best for spotting cancers.”
To further develop this research, the investigators will next review and categorize the biomarkers that have been identified and move forward into clinical laboratory-based tests.