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Blood Test Could Detect Signs of Lung Cancer

Update Date: Apr 07, 2014 09:35 AM EDT

One simple blood test could inform doctors a lot about a patient's health. Now, according to a new study, blood tests might be able to reveal even more. The study reported that blood test could be used to detect and track lung cancer. The researchers believe that within the near future, blood tests would be able to spot signs of 'solid' cancer throughout the body.

The researchers headed by Dr. Maximilian Diehn from the Stanford School of Medicine, examined the DNA taken from lung cancer patients who were being treated with radiation. The patients had non-small-cell lung cancers. The research team was able to locate small portions of the DNA and scan large amounts of it in order to look for mutations that originate from tumors. They successfully found tumor DNA in every single patient who had Stage 2 or higher cancers. The DNA test was able to identify tumor DNA roughly 50 percent of the time for patients with Stage 1 cancer.

"The initial impetus was having something I could use in my own patients ... as a blood test that would let us both detect the presence of cancer as well as monitor how a patient's cancer responds to various treatments," Diehn explained reported by NPR. "Now, since we can already detect half of them with the current assay, we're very hopeful that the majority of cases will have detectable DNA."

Diehn's team is not the only one researching the potential use of DNA tests in detecting cancer. A team from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine headed by Dr. Luis Diaz recently found that a blood DNA test was capable of targeting 14 different kinds of tumors. This study was published in Science Translational Medicine. In their study, the test also found tumors in half of the early cancer cases. Both teams are still working to improve upon their tests.

Since Diehn's test was specific to lung cancer, the researchers are currently working to create tests for other cancers, such as breast cancer, lymphomas, esophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer. The research team is also working to improve upon the lung-cancer test used in the study. If the test could more accurately detect the early stages of cancer, treatments and survival rates could improve significantly. The study was published in Nature Medicine.

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