Single blood-based screening test for early detection of cancer moves forward

Step towards blood test for many cancer types

Scientists who are working to develop a test that can screen for multiple cancer types from a single blood sample have taken a step closer to their goal. Researchers systematically reviewed thousands of scientific papers and identified more than 800 markers in the blood of cancer patients that could help lead to a single blood test for early detection of many types of cancer in future.

LB3 Press Release

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All cancers produce compounds that end up in the bloodstream, so it is feasible that such blood markers could form the basis of a general screening test for many different forms of cancer.

UK rates of early cancer detection are lower than in many other western countries and survival remains relatively poor. At present early (pre-symptomatic) cancer detection is limited to cases identified through specific national screening programmes or via incidental radiological findings. In 2012, fifteen UK universities established an Early Cancer Detection (ECDC) Consortium to identify, validate and implement new generic blood tests for early tumour detection. Funded by Cancer Research UK, work package one aims to identify the evidence base of blood-based biomarkers for early detection of cancer.

A systematic mapping review is being undertaken to establish “What biomarkers exist that could be used to develop a general cancer screening assay from blood sampling and what is their state of development?”

Electronic searches of several relevant databases were conducted in May 2014. Screening for relevant biomarkers is being undertaken by one reviewer using a process of “data mining” within the database of retrieved references. All blood based biomarkers, their relevant properties and characteristics, and their corresponding references are entered into a comprehensive database for further scrutiny by the Early Cancer Detection Consortium, and subsequent selection of biomarkers for rapid review.

Over 19,000 papers have been identified by the initial searches. Data mining has identified over 800 blood-based biomarkers. Each technology will be tabulated separately to summarise the available data and data sources for consideration by the consortium at its Autumn meeting in October 2014.

This abstract will outline the key findings of the systematic review, and the discussion at the Consortium’s Autumn 2014 meeting. The deliberations of the consortium will form the basis of a narrative synthesis of the results, and prepare for the next stage of the blood test development as it moves forward into clinical laboratory based test.

Sources and more information
  • Step towards blood test for many cancer types, Cancer Research UK, Press release, 2 November 2014.
  • Single blood test that screens for several cancers steps closer, MNT 284805, 3 November 2014.
  • The UK Early Cancer Detection Consortium – Building the evidence base of blood-based biomarkers for early detection of cancer, 2014 NCRI Cancer Conference, LB3, November 2014.