A simple blood test could give humanity “mastery over cancer” by detecting almost all cases before it spreads, scientists say.
The technology, which can identify 70 types of cancer, has started to be offered privately, and the company behind it wants it to be rolled out across the NHS.
Scientists say such techniques could be introduced as standard screening within the next five to 10 years, allowing doctors to eradicate cancer long before symptoms appear.
Research on 30,000 people found that controls could identify 91.8 percent of cases that were not metastatic.
This meant that it was more treatable, because it had not spread beyond the main site where it was found.
The NHS is up and running the largest trial ever conducted of blood tests to detect cancerinvolving 140,000 people, in the hope that it could prevent one in ten cancer deaths.
So far, studies have found that Galleri’s test, which can detect at least 50 types of cancer, is capable of detecting more than half of cases of the disease.
But a British nonprofit company thinks a different type of “liquid biopsy,” called Trucheck, could be even better, especially for detecting cases at the earliest stages, when they are most treatable.
The tests were able to detect nine out of 10 cases of cancer, whether metastatic or not.
By contrast, Galleri’s test reached similar levels of performance when the cancer had reached stage four, meaning the disease was advanced and could be terminal.
Talks with NHS cancer networks
The Trucheck test has just started being offered to private clients by the British non-profit Cancer Screening Trust, at a cost of £1,100, including a consultation.
The company is also in talks with the NHS cancer networks, about conducting more trialswith the hope that it can be implemented in the health service.
Joe Coles, president of the Cancer Screening Trust, said: “I really think this is a game changer. It’s going to change the way cancer is thought of and treated; humanity is striving to master cancer, and advances in detection technology will finally put us in control.”
“Before the cancer has spread, it is much easier to treat, it can be removed by surgery, radiation therapy or newer interventional oncology procedures,” he added.
Experts said the beauty of the technology was in the early identification of cases.
Detects circulating tumor cells
The blood test itself takes less than a minute, involving just two 10ml vials.
Before that, patients go through a detailed questionnaire and consultation.
The liquid biopsy system works by detecting circulating tumor cells that are shed by malignant growths but not by non-cancerous tissue.
During a five-day process in the laboratory, healthy cells are stimulated to die.
Cancer cells are resistant, which means that the ones that are left will grow and form clumps.
If identified, patients undergo an in-depth consultation, after which they can be registered for further checks and continue private treatment, or return the information to their GP.
The Trucheck test, developed by the Indian firm Datar Cancer Genetics, is also available elsewhere, including in the United States and Germany.
One in two people in the UK can expect to develop cancer, and diagnosis currently lags behind that of many Western nations.
The Galleri studies, a test developed by the GRAIL company, which is now being tested on the NHS, found that at stage 1 it was able to detect 16.8 per cent of cases, rising to 40.4 per cent at stage 2, 77 percent in stage 3, and 90.1 percent in stage four.
By contrast, the new test, called Trucheck, was able to detect 91.8 percent of cases that were not metastatic, research published in Cancer Cytology found. It also found 92.6 percent of cases where the disease had spread beyond the primary site.
Independent experts called the findings “promising” and called for more research, including trials in a real-world population.
However, they also expressed some caution in making comparisons between different methods, as the trials used different measures to track disease progress.
Even at stage three, cancer can remain “non-metastatic” and the Trucheck study did not show how many cases were found at this stage, rather than at stages one or two, when it is more amenable to treatment.
Basis for screening programs
However, separate breast cancer studies found that the new technology was able to identify almost nine out of 10 cases at stage one, while Galleri detected around 16 percent of cases.
A spokesperson for Grail said the latest results from Galleri’s trials, which show it found cancer in about one percent of participants, including types for which there is no established screening method, “further strengthened confidence.” “in its ability to detect cases accurately.
Dr Richard Tippett, Clinical Lead for Cancer Screening, said he was now working with the University of Exeter to model the impact of using Trucheck as a basis for screening programmes, in the hope that the NHS could implement it.
“Our goal is to be able to show that when this test is used properly, it will find cancer sooner and cure more people; but we need to show that it will improve healthcare and therefore save the NHS time and money,” he said.
Dr David Crosby, Head of Prevention and Early Detection Research at Cancer Research UK, said: “These findings on the Trucheck test are interesting – they show promising early indications that signs of cancer can be found in the blood of cancer patients. known.
“However, the findings are limited in that the test’s ability to detect early-stage cancers appears limited, and they do not show how good the test is at detecting cancer in a real-world population where people may or may not have cancer. We need more research to answer these questions.”