Pharma & drug development

Catching cancer: could a new blood test rewrite oncology?

Early identification of cancer is crucial in oncology, which means that any device capable of catching cancer cells sooner is a welcome development. Now, a team in China claims to have developed a blood test that can pick up cancer up to four years before symptoms appear. But can this game-changing technology live up to the hype, or is PanSeer too good to be true? Abi Millar finds out.

In July, a team of researchers in China piqued the attention of the oncology community worldwide. They had developed a blood test, PanSeer, which they claimed could detect five common types of cancer up to four years before symptoms emerged. Publishing their results in Nature, the researchers said the test could detect cancer in up to 95% of asymptomatic patients who later receive a diagnosis.

The test, developed by Singlera Genomics, uses DNA methylation techniques along with a machine learning algorithm to pick up on early signs of cancer. While this is far from being the only liquid biopsy in development, it is one of the first to detect cancer even before the patient shows symptoms.

“Over the long term, this could be something that is offered at a yearly check-up at the doctors’ office,” says Professor Ken Zhang of The University of California San Diego, who co-led the study. “It might become a first-line screening approach that can be deployed in the general population, starting with high-risk age groups or those with family history, before being expanded to the broader community.”

Read the rest of this article in the October 2020 edition of Medical Technology

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