New blood test can detect when cancer returns

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© Linda Bartlett – Wikimedia Commons

SCIENTISTS have come up with a blood test that can detect the return of cancers that have grown again after treatment. 

The researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research in London carried out a trial on 55 female cancer patients who were at high risk of relapsing due to the large size of the tumour and discovered 12 cancers out of the 15 women who had relapsed.

By analysing the mutated DNA of the tumour, they were able to search the blood for the same mutations, thereby finding cancers which they would not normally have been able to detect. Of the group, 15 patients relapsed and the blood test was able to advise 12 of them. The other three all had cancers which had already spread to the brain.

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While the trial detected traces of breast cancer eight months earlier than doctors would normally have been able to discover it, it is likely to be a long time before such a test is readily available. 

While blood analysis is cheap to do, the expense of analysing the DNA of cancerous is significantly more and while early detection of cancer is crucial in improving the chances of survival of patients through early treatment, it is not an easy process.  

Dr Nick Peel from Cancer Research UK warns that “There is some way before this could be developed into a test that doctors could use routinely, and doing so is never simple.”

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