In the fight against cancer, a novel method has been developed to detect 13 different types of cancer from just a single drop of blood. Most tests require a biopsy, a small sample of the suspected cancer tissue, which can sometimes be difficult to get to.

A team of researchers led by the National Cancer Center Japan (NCC) in Tokyo, together with Toray Industries, Inc., and other institutions, created the new test which detects differences in miRNA, secreted by cells in the blood stream as a means of communication. Cancer cells also do this, allowing the test to detect breast, lung, stomach, colorectal tract, oesophagus, liver, and pancreas cancers.

Samples from 40,000 patients were used, and researchers were able to detect and identify miRNA for specific cancers with 95% accuracy. Note: Samples used were frozen, possibly altering the miRNA which was preserved. A clinical trial involving 3,000 fresh samples is already arranged for August.

This is a first in testing for multiple types of cancer within a sample of blood. “Patients will not need to take multiple tests. In the future, it will become possible to identify cancer stages and characteristics,” said Yet Takahiro Ochiya, head of the Molecular and Cellular Medicine Division at the NCC’s Research Institute, The Japan News reported.

There are already liquid biopsies which can detect cancer years in advance using ctDNA, but this is only for one type of cancer at a time.

This new method has the potential to be life-saving and the team plan on applying for government approval next, which could open their method for practical use in the next three years.

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