Ovarian cancer treatment is much more effective if it’s administered during the early stages of the disease. In fact, when ovarian cancer is diagnosed early, approximately 94% of patients have a good prognosis post-treatment. However, the reality is that relatively few cases (about 20%) of ovarian cancer are diagnosed early, which makes treatment less effective. But a newly developed blood test could change this. Beyong a full pelvic exam, medical professionals, at present, have two options when it comes to testing for ovarian cancer: a transvaginal ultrasound and a cancer antigen 125 (CA 125) blood test. Unfortunately, both have significant limitations. For example, while the ultrasound can detect growths, it cannot determine whether they are cancerous. The CA 125 test looks for a specific ovarian cancer marker, but people with unrelated conditions also have high levels of this particular antigen. These limitations of the existing tests are one of the driving forces behind the development of the new blood test. The new test, developed by a team from Griffith University and the University of Adelaide (both in Australia), looks for telltale sugars associated with ovarian cancer cells. According to the findings of the team’s study, the new blood test detected large levels of the sugars in 90% of people with stage 1 ovarian cancer and 100% of people with later stage ovarian cancer. Moreover, the test detected none of the telltale sugars in healthy participants. Prof. James Paton, one of the study authors, said the test is a huge step toward diagnosing ovarian cancer in its early stages. “Ovarian cancer is notoriously difficult to detect in its early stages, when there are more options for treatment and survival rates are better. Our new test is therefore a potential game-changer,” he said.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with more than 47,000 new cases diagnosed every year. And up until now, the most widely used tests for the disease had included the PSA blood test, a digital rectal examination (DRE), MRI scans and a biopsy. However, each of these wasn’t without its problems. But now a new ultrasound process, which offers more successful diagnosis and management of prostate cancer, has been identified by researchers at Dundee University. The technique, known as non-invasive shear wave elastography (SWE), offers "much greater accuracy and reliability" than current methods and is less expensive, according to the researchers. It targets the prostate with ultrasound and was evaluated using a study at Dundee University involving around 200 patients. Because cancerous tissue is denser than normal tissue, the shear waves are slowed as they pass through it. During the study, the technique was able to successfully identify 89% of prostate cancers, as well as other more aggressive cancers, including those spreading outside of the prostate. Ghulam Nabi, professor of surgical uro-oncology at Dundee University, said, "Prostate cancer is one of the most difficult to pinpoint. "We are still in a position where our diagnosis of prostate cancer is extremely inefficient, leading to unnecessary treatments for many patients." Speaking about the new test, Prof Nabi said it was “like someone has turned the lights on in a darkened room."
Developing a universal blood test for cancer has been one of the biggest goals in medicine ever and now scientists at John Hopkins University have taken a huge step towards achieving it. The team have trialled a test that can detect eight common forms of cancer, with the ultimate goal being to develop an annual test that can catch cancers early and save lives. While more work is needed, experts in the UK have described the breakthrough as “enormously exciting”. The test works by picking up on tiny traces of mutated DNA and proteins released into a person’s bloodstream by tumours. The CancerSEEK test, as it is known, looks for mutations in 16 genes and eight different proteins released by tumours. In a trial involving 1,005 patients with cancers in the stomach, liver, ovary, pancreas, colon, oesophagus, lung or breast, which had not yet spread to other tissues, the test was able to successfully detect 70% of the cancers. The test is particularly exciting as it was able to detect some cancers that currently have no early detection screening programmes. Pancreatic cancer is one area where the test could really make a big difference. At present, four in five pancreatic cancer patients die within the year they are diagnosed. That’s because the disease emits so few symptoms and sufferers are often diagnosed too late. The CancerSEEK test will now be trialled on individuals who have not been diagnosed with cancer. This will be the real measure of its effectiveness and usefulness.
A simple blood test that accurately detects several different types of cancer years before symptoms even appear could revolutionise how the disease is treated, scientists have said. Researchers hope the non-invasive test will pave the way for a future where the straightforward procedure could form part of routine health check-ups. It’s thought that thousands of deaths each year could be prevented with the tests as they can detect tumours at an early stage, when treatment is most effective. At present, the best method for detecting cancer is a biopsy, which involves cutting out a small piece of tumour tissue for lab analysis. However, biopsies are invasive and often painful, and a person already needs to have a tumour or at least a suspected tumour to have something cut out of it. That’s why scientists have been working to develop blood tests that can do the same, without the need for surgery. Speaking about the breakthrough, Dr Bert Vogelstein, a professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, told The Guardian: “It’s fair to say that if you could detect all cancers while they are still localized, you could diminish cancer deaths by 90 per cent.”