In addition to lab tests of the blood, urine, or other body fluids and imaging procedures such as CT scan and ultrasound, physicians often recommend a biopsy to diagnose cancer. Though it is the most reliable way to detect cancerous cells, a biopsy is invasive, time-consuming, costly, and sometimes risky. In fact, a study presented at the 2014 Chicago Multidisciplinary Symposium in Thoracic Oncology found biopsies to be the most costly tool prescribed in lung cancer diagnosis with each biopsy procedure costing an average of $14,634 per patient.
Medical News Today recently reported that researchers from the U.K. have developed a new blood test which they claim could actually replace the biopsy as the gold standard for cancer detection. Carried out at the Royal Brompton Hospital and the UK’s National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI), at Imperial College London, the study involved 223 preoperative patients with confirmed and suspected primary and secondary lung malignancies. The researchers were not told if they had cancer or not.
Their new blood test could detect DNA released from dead cancer cells in the blood by identifying three of the most common gene mutations present in cancers. In 70% of the cases, the test proved accurate in diagnosing lung cancer. The analysis of tissue samples from the patients with lung also produced the same results, confirming those of the blood test.
Though not an alternative to biopsy for all patients, this blood test offers many advantages:
- A positive result would mean that the patient would not have to undergo a biopsy before moving on to treatment
- Results would be available sooner so that treatment can be administered more quickly
- Quick results increase chances for survival
The research team stresses that other methods should be used in order to confirm negative results of the blood test and that more research is needed to further validate the blood test as a cancer diagnostic tool.
Blood testing is fast becoming a reliable way of detecting many types of cancers quickly and cost-effectively. Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center presented a simple blood test to detect pancreatic cancer in its early stages. U.K. based researchers too have found a blood test that could offer an early warning sign about breast cancer relapse.