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New Blood Test Detects 18 Types of Cancer in Early Stages, Study Finds

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Researchers developed a new multi-cancer blood screening test to detect early-stage cancers and found it had a high level of accuracy.

Measuring plasma proteins in blood through a proteome screening test has the potential to detect 18 different types of cancers in their earliest stages of development, compared with other approaches, according to a recent study in BMJ Oncology.

Blood test

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Blood test

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Novelna Inc., a proteomics-based liquid biopsy startup, developed a new screening test, called Proximity Extension Assay, that uses a sex-specific panel of 10 proteins.

Today, cancer is a leading cause of death around the world and accounts for one in every six deaths, according to a previous study.

But screening methods such as colonoscopies, CT scans, mammograms, and others come with downsides, including invasiveness, high costs and limited accuracy in detecting early stages. Additionally, approaches such as the liquid biopsy, which analyzes biomarkers in non-solid specimens, offer promise, but genomics-based multi-cancer tests show low sensitivity for early stages and can be costly.

The test developed by Novelna explores plasma proteins as biomarkers for solid tumors, focusing on the need to detect undetectable proteome markers.

Plasma samples were then collected from 440 patients who were either diagnosed with 18 distinct types of cancer with early-stage solid tumors, or who were completely healthy. They measured more than 3,000 high- and low-abundance proteins in each sample, successfully identifying the cancer's site of origin in more than 80% of cases.

Sex-specific cancer detection panels were made of 10 proteins that were high accuracy for males (AUC: 0.98) and females (AUC: 0.983). At stage I, with 99% distinction, these panels detected 93% of cancers in males and 84% in females.

The plasma protein test revealed that these proteins mainly belonged to the low-concentration segment of the human plasma proteome.

Overall, the results of the protein-based plasma test have shown high sensitivity in detecting a variety of early-stage tumors in cancer patients, making it a strong candidate for use as a screening tool.

Some study limitations include a relatively small cohort size, which can impact generalization of its population. The lack of data on illnesses and its sole focus on early-stage cancers may not fully represent diverse patient populations or advanced stages.

Researchers suggest that future studies explore the test's performance across more cancer scenarios.

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