A Simple Blood Test that Detects Cancer and Diabetes Complications

Northwestern Medicine scientists have developed a new approach that uses just a few drops of blood to accurately detect life-threatening vascular complications in diabetes patients, as well as several major forms of cancer, such as liver cancer. The study was published in the journal Clinical Chemistry.

“We’re very excited to apply our earlier findings in cancer patients to diabetic patients,” said co-corresponding author Wei Zhang, associate professor of cancer epidemiology and prevention at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in a press release about the study.

The current study evaluated 62 diabetic patients, of which 12 had vascular complications, 34 patients with a singular vascular complication and 16 with multiple vascular complications. The blood test was able to discern vascular complications much more accurately than current diagnostic methods. The researchers had previously used the same test to analyze more than 3,000 blood samples that accurately pinpointed patients with liver cancer without mistakenly flagging at-risk patients. In fact, detecting approximately 88% of tumors.

Tissue biopsy is currently the gold standard for diagnosing many cancers, this modality is expensive, difficult, invasive, time-consuming compared to a blood test, and although blood-based tests currently exist, they perform poorly in detecting early-stage cancers.

Prof. Zhang, who is a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, is currently testing the blood assessment technology on other major cancers such as lymphoma, multiple myeloma and colon cancer. His team is assessing the test with the tissue of each cancer biopsy they encounter, with the goal of testing on patients in a clinical trial.

Zhang stated that: “Ideally in the future, a patient could get their blood tested with this technology and check for a suite of different cancers.”