Could a simple blood test detect early-stage lung cancer?

from The ASCO Post

If the initial promise of research presented at the 2018 ASCO Annual Meeting bears fruit, we may one day have a simple blood test to screen for early-stage lung cancer and possibly other cancers. Although it is still very early days for this test, an initial report from the ongoing Circulating Cell-Free Genome Atlas (CCGA) study showed that genome sequencing of blood samples detected about 40% of early-stage lung cancers and about 90% of late-stage lung cancers with excellent specificity.

“Two years ago, it was a pipe dream to conceive of a blood test to identify lung cancer. Today we have shown that it is feasible to find cancer in the blood. It will take some time and further studies to develop a clinically useful test,” said lead author Geoffrey R. Oxnard, MD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston.

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a clinical path for diagnostic tests, and it requires demonstration of analytic validity. This report shows that the researchers are on that path. The test is not yet developed, but it is exciting preliminary research,” said ASCO Chief Medical Officer, Richard Schilsky, MD, FACP, FASCO, FSCT, at a press conference where these data were presented.

Early detection of lung cancer is a high unmet medical need. Although screening high-risk people with low-dose computed tomography identifies early-stage lung cancer and saves lives, several studies have shown an abysmally low uptake of this test in the at-risk population. Reasons for lack of adoption are complex, Dr. Oxnard noted. Low-dose computed tomography has drawbacks including false-positive results and logistical challenges, which might be overcome if a simple blood test for screening were validated and available. “Cell-free DNA–based tests represent an untapped opportunity for cancer detection,” Dr. Oxnard emphasized.

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