New method of detecting cancer through blood test
A team of Korean researchers have developed a way to detect cancer that could save a great number of lives.
Instead of an intrusive biopsy, they say they've detected cancer cells in the blood stream -- and, importantly -- they caught them at an early stage.
The diagnosis, for breast cancer patients, required just a simple blood test.
Our Lee Unshin reports. Researchers at Korea's state-run National Cancer Center say they've successfully detected circulating tumor cells in patients with breast cancer in its early stages, by just looking at a sample of their blood.
"We developed a magnetic, polymer nanowire... coated with an antibody that captures the protein within the circulating tumor cells -- cancer cells, in this case. We were able to detect cancer cells in 41 patients by placing these nanowires into their blood samples."
Circulating tumor cells, or CTCs, are cells that have been shed by a primary tumor into the blood stream.
CTCs are known as the biomarkers of several types of the disease, such as breast, prostate and colorectal cancers.
Until now, CTC monitoring has been limited to cancers in the more advanced stages.
So the ability to find cancer early through blood testing is truly a landmark achievement.
"Once the cancer is spread, treatment becomes more complicated and generally the patient's chance of survival also drops. So it's crucial to get an early diagnosis, which widens the range of possible treatments."
The team is now testing the technology on ovarian and lung cancer patients, too, with high hopes that soon doctors will no longer have to remove a patient's tissue -- what's known as a biopsy -- and can instead simply take a sample of blood.