A blood test that might lead to detecting cancer in its earliest stages could be the new hope for cancer patients.
Researchers have often said that it would be incredibly easier to tackle diseases if they are detected early enough, while the chances of helping the patient might even decrease as time passes by with the disease remaining unnoticed and thus progressing further. This is specially critical for cancer. Cancer develops gradually and reaches a point of no return, where treatment yields no positive response. Therefore, scientists have often focused their efforts in finding methods to detect the disease as early as possible. One such endeavour was made by researchers from Harvard University. They have discovered a blood test that could potentially determine the risk of a person developing blood cancer five years before the symptoms appear.
The team of scientists found that people with certain traits were more vulnerable to having cancer. According to their data, those with mutations in their blood are 13 times more likely to develop leukaemia, lymphoma, or myelodysplastic syndrome. Having these mutations at a young age is a warning sign that something is wrong within the person’s system. Those people having the mutations have a 5 % risk of having a certain form of blood cancer within a period of 5 years. The authors of the study explained that the majority of diseases progress extremely gradually, in periods spanning over months or even years. In the case of the disease cancer, it actually represents the end-stage of the whole process. Therefore, detecting the first phases will be a great boost for the patient.
One of the authors stated that: “By the time a cancer has become clinically detectable it has accumulated several mutations that have evolved over many years. What we are primarily detecting here is an early, pre-malignant stage in which the cells have acquired just one initiating mutation.”
The researchers also pointed out that the results themselves might not be critical in finding solutions to early cancer detection, but they can constitute the guiding light for more research on this subject.
“The results demonstrate a way to identify high-risk cohorts – people who are at much higher than average risk of progressing to cancer – which could be a population for clinical trials of future prevention strategies.”