Scientists have the first major evidence that blood tests called liquid biopsies hold promise for screening people for cancer. Hong Kong doctors tried it for a type of head and neck cancer, and boosted early detection and one measure of survival.
The tests detect DNA that tumors shed into the blood. Some are used now to monitor cancer patients, and many companies are trying to develop versions of these for screening, as possible alternatives to mammograms, colonoscopies and other such tests.
The new study, published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine, shows this approach can work, at least for this one form of cancer and in a country where it’s common.
“This work is very exciting on the larger scale” because it gives a blueprint for how to make tests for other tumor types such as lung or breast, said Dr. Dennis Lo of Chinese University of Hong Kong. “We are brick by brick putting that technology into place.”
The study involved nasopharyngeal cancer, which forms at the top of the throat behind the nose.
More cases were found at the earliest stage – 71 percent versus only 20 percent.
– Associated Press