New Blood Test Screens More than 20 Types of Cancer

Early trials show a very high level of accuracy of diagnosing cancer and where it originated.

 (Aquarius Studio /

New technologies that allow doctors to detect cancer earlier has been changing the face of cancer treatment. What was once thought of as a catastrophic diagnosis is now becoming more treatable. Early detection allows people to have a better quality of life and more longevity.

Now, a new blood test that is being developed by researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute that can screen for many types of cancer has shown a high level of accuracy in trials according to a news release from the organization.

The blood test was developed by GRAIL, Inc. and uses a state-of-the-art sequencing technology to search DNA for methylation – minute chemical tags – to see if specific genes are active or inactive. Abnormal patterns of methylation are indicative of cancer.

The test was applied to neatly 3,600 blood samples of people who already had cancer diagnosed and control people who didn't. The samples were from patients who had more than 20 types of cancer that includes: breast, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, several myelomas, lymphoid, head, neck, and leukemia.  

The test was able to identify the people who were already diagnosed with cancer and where the cancer began. This was done with a 99.4 percent level of accuracy. It was also able to determine which stage cancer was present. The higher the stage, the more accurate the test was

“Our previous work indicated that methylation-based assays outperform traditional DNA-sequencing approaches to detecting multiple forms of cancer in blood samples,” said the study’s lead author, Geoffrey Oxnard, MD, of Dana-Farber in the news release. “The results of the new study demonstrate that such assays are a feasible way of screening people for cancer.”

The research team presented their trial results at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) September 2019 Congress.

The study concluded that the findings of these trials support further clinical development of this multi-cancer detection test. "Detecting even a modest percent of common cancers early could translate into many patients who may be able to receive more effective treatment if the test were in wide use," Oxnard said.

Researchers in Australia have developed a 10-minute test that also uses methylation DNA that is 90 percent accurate in their early trials. While it is still far from being approved for use, this new technology is inexpensive and can be used to screen patients in under medical serviced parts of the world. Just think of how many lives can potentially be saved.

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