New Blood Test Detects Cancer 4 Years Ahead of Symptoms

The blood test screens for five of the most common cancers.
Fabienne Lang

If cancer is detected early, the chances of survival increase. So it's good news that an international team of scientists has developed a blood test that can detect five of the most common types of cancers four years before symptoms are picked up by current methods.

The tests can currently find the following cancers: stomach, esophageal, colorectal, lung, and liver cancer. 

The study was published in Nature Communications on Tuesday. 

Non-invasive system

In its current formation, the experimental blood test was able to detect cancer in 91% of the asymptomatic samples from healthy volunteers.

It's quite extraordinary, and as Kun Zhang, a bioengineer at the University of California, San Diego, and co-author of the study, said "What we showed is: up to four years before these people walk into the hospital, there are already signatures in their blood that show they have cancer." 

"That’s never been done before," Zhang explained. 

The test was also able to recognize 95% of the cancer-free tests. 

What's unique about this particular study is that the blood tests were carried out on patients who were asymptomatic, or had yet to be diagnosed. 


The team's hopes are to ultimately carry out these blood tests during routine health checks, so as to catch any upcoming cancer from the five the test can detect. However, at the moment the initial goal is to carry out blood tests on higher risk people, for instance, those who have a medical history of cancer in the family, those of a certain age, or any other known risk factors, explained Zhang.

The test, called PanSeer, is still in its experimental phases. The authors of the study do stress, however, that PanSeer is not being created to catch cancer in people who may later go on to develop it. Rather, it is used to identify people who already have cancerous growths but that aren't able to be detected using current methods of detection. 

This isn't the first blood test that can help in the fight against cancer. Back in 2018, a similar cancer-detecting blood test was being developed, and more recently, another blood test is being developed to catch over 50 types of cancers.

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