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Couple of Studies Identify A Detectable Pre-Cancerous State In The Blood

Update Date: Nov 27, 2014 07:35 PM EST

Two new studies have uncovered an easily detectable "pre-malignant" state in the blood that significantly increases the likelihood that an individual will go on to develop blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, or myelodysplastic syndrome. 

The discovery made by two independent studies opens new avenues for research aimed at early detection and prevention of blood cancer. 

The "pre-malignant" state identified by the studies becomes more common with age. It is rare in those under the age of 40 but appears with increasing frequency with each decade of life that passes, according to study findings.

"People often think about disease in black and white - that there's 'healthy' and there's 'disease' - but in reality most disease develops gradually over months or years. These findings give us a window on these early stages in the development of blood cancer," said Steven McCarroll, senior author of one of the papers in the press release.

"Cancer is the end-stage of the process," added Siddhartha Jaiswal, a Broad associated scientist and clinical fellow from Massachusetts General Hospital who was first author of Ebert's paper. "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 study findings will appear this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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