Blood Test Detects More Than 50 Cancer Types Before Symptoms Begin to Show

Researchers have developed a new blood test that can detect more than 50 cancer types across various disease stages with a specificity of 99.3%, according to a study published in Annals of Oncology.

The prospective, case-control sub-study assessed a targeted methylation analysis of circulating cell-free DNA to detect and localize multiple cancer types across all stages at a high specificity. The study included 6,689 participants: 2,482 had previously untreated cancer, encompassing more than 50 cancer types, and 4,207 did not have cancer. Patients were divided into training and validation sets, and performance was consistent in both sets.

High specificity of detection observed with blood test

In validation, the specificity was 99.3%, equating to a 0.7% false-positive rate. Stage I-III disease sensitivity was 67.3% in a prespecified set of 12 cancer types, including anus, bladder, colorectal, esophagus, head and neck, liver/bile-duct, lung, lymphoma, ovary, pancreas, plasma cell neoplasm, and stomach, which account for approximately 63% of U.S. cancer deaths annually. Stage I-III disease sensitivity was 43.9% for all cancer types.

Detection increased with increasing cancer stage: In the prespecified cancer types, sensitivity was 39% in stage I, 69% in stage II, 83% in stage III, and 92% in stage IV. In all cancer types, sensitivity was 18%, 43%, 81%, and 93%, respectively.

Tissue of origin was predicted in 96% of samples with cancer-like signal, and of those, the tissue of origin localization was accurate in 93% of samples.

“Considering the potential value of early detection in deadly malignancies, further evaluation of this test is justified in prospective population-level studies,” the researchers concluded.