According to a Tuesday story in the Houston Chronicle, researchers at the University of Bradford in Great Britain are well in their way to developing a universal blood test to detect cancer in people. The test has profound implications for early detection of cancer, a key to fighting the disease successfully. It can also be used to rule out cancer in patients that have symptoms, saving time and resources.
It s called the Lymphocyte Genome Sensitivity (LGS) test. The way it works is that the white blood cells in the drawn blood is subjected to UV light. The light will damage the white blood cells DNA, but in different ways when the patient has cancer or a precancerous condition than when he or she is healthy. The white blood cells are already under stress when there is cancer present.
A preliminary trial has already determined that the blood test has a great degree of accuracy with patients who have melanoma, colon cancer and lung cancer. A trial is currently ongoing at the Bradford Royal Infirmary to determine the efficacy of the blood test in detecting colorectal cancer. The preferred method of determining a diagnosis of that particular form of the disease is to conduct a far more invasive colonoscopy.
The University of Bradford has already applied for patents for the blood test. A company called Oncascan has been established to commercialize the test once the trials have been completed and it can be delivered into a clinical setting. The ability to use a simple blood test, either as part of a regular exam or when someone develops cancer-like symptoms, to diagnose cancer early has the potential to save millions of lives. Early detection of cancers, along with some of the new treatments that specifically target cancer cells, would be a quantum leap in the treatment of the disease.