Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have developed world’s first blood tests that can diagnose cancer and prototype tests could be ready in a year.
Researchers have developed a computer program that can simultaneously detect cancer and identify where it is in the body purely from a blood sample.
The program, which the scientists have called CancerLocator, works by measuring the amount of tumour DNA circulating in the blood.
Once this DNA has been located, it can be compared to a database of genetic information from hundreds of people to identify where the tumour is located, said Professor Jasmine Zhou, co-lead author from the University of California at Los Angeles.
“Non-invasive diagnosis of cancer is important, as it allows the early diagnosis of cancer and the earlier the cancer is caught, the higher chance a patient has of beating the disease,” said Professor Zhou.
The new program had an error rate, the chance of a false positive, of 0.265, a more than 50 per cent improvement on the nearest best computer model.
The study was focused on three cancer types, breast, liver and lung and was able to detect early stage cancers in 80 per cent of cases.
It was able to identify the five out of 12 lung cancer patients tested who also had the disease.
Professor Zhou said the next step was to collect solid tissue samples to improve the accuracy of the blood tests, which could then be trialled in a clinical setting.
The technology is in its infancy and requires further validation, but the potential benefits to patients are huge.
The study was published in the journal Genome Biology.