Are we close to detecting cancer through blood sampling?

Two wonders of technology with the potential to nip cancer in the bud.

As a breakthrough the field of oncology has been looking for, a blood test can now detect not only cancer but also identify where it is in the body. This could potentially allow doctors to diagnose specific cancers even before any signs of a lump and to add to that, it’s simple enough to be part of routine annual health checkups.

The name of the test says it all! CancerLocator is the brainchild of the University of California and works by hunting for the DNA from tumors that circulates in the bloodstream.

“We have developed a computer-driven test that can detect cancer, and also identify the type of cancer, from a single blood sample,” shared Professor Jasmine Zhou, co-lead author from the University of California at Los Angeles.

The team researched and came up with specific molecular patterns seen in a tissue in the presence of a tumor. DNA damage comes into play here. They also ensured they compile a molecular footprint for non-cancerous samples, to give an all clear signal to the patients.

The program so far has been able to make a base-level diagnosis, demonstrating the potential.

“The technology is in its infancy and requires further validation, but the potential benefits to patients are huge,” says Jasmine.

Now that we are beginning to understand the promise this test holds, did we ever think replacing tissue biopsies with blood biopsies could also change the way we screen for cancer?

A team of researchers seem to be on their way to figure out how. Sometimes, monitoring cancer patients could mean surgery – only to assess whether and how they are responding to treatment.

The good news is a new experimental technique that could eliminate the need of surgery. Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), are making use of a micro device to predict whether any cancer is likely to spread. The size of a postage stamp, the NanoVelcro Chip is made up of wires 1,000 times thinner than one human hair.

The researchers say they run the blood sample through the chip, which is coated with proteins to detect any tumor cells circulating in the bloodstream. The captured tumor cells can be then identified and analyzed.

Dr. Edwin Posadas, the medical director of the Urologic Oncology Program at Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, shared in a press release how it’s far better to draw a tube of blood once a month to monitor cancer than to make patients undergo repeated surgical procedures.

He believes the power of this technology lies in its potential to provide information that could be even superior to traditional tumor sampling.

Blood seems to have the answer. We may not be ready for prime time yet, but we seem to be moving in the right direction. Time will tell!

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