Researchers Able To Diagnose Cancer With A Single Drop Of Blood

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

By: George Zapo


Researchers developed a groundbreaking technique that can detect different types of cancer at an early stage from a single drop of blood. Current cancer detection methods usually rely on scans and tissue biopsies. These types of methods are time consuming, complex, and very often quite expensive.

For example, CT scans are only able to detect rather large tumors that are usually in advanced stages. The ability to detect cancer in the blood, also called liquid biopsy, is a huge advantage for the early diagnosis and detection of cancer cells.

A team of scientists at the VU University Medical Cancer Center in Amsterdam, Netherlands report they have discovered that thrombocytes, or platelets in the blood from cancer patients, contain unique RNA markings, which helps carry out DNA’s blueprint instructions of the specific tumor.

Lead researcher at VUMC Cancer Center, Dr. Tom Würdinger, and his team explain that platelets are responsible for the suitable coagulation of blood, but recent studies show that platelets are also significantly responsible for tumor growth and metastasis of the cancer.The platelets of individuals with cancer cells contain unique RNA-patterns, which make it possible to differentiate between healthy individuals, and people that have cancer, with close to 96 percent certainty for most types of cancer.

Dr. Würdinger and his team of researchers studied blood samples from more than 200 cancer patients. The researchers took blood samples from each patient with varying diagnoses and prognoses and they were able to establish, not only the presence of cancerous cells, but also which type of the cancer they had and if it had metastasized to other areas of the patient’s body.

The scientists were also able to identify the origin of the primary tumor with 71 percent accuracy — six different types of tumors, including breast, colorectal, pancreatic, glioblastoma, and hepatobiliary cancer, as well as non-small cell lung carcinoma.

The platelet profiles can also help establish what type of therapy may be best for a cancer patient. In addition, re-analyzing blood with this cancer test at varying times allows the researchers the ability to determine if the patient’s treatment is effective or not.

According to ScienceDump‘s coverage of this innovative cancer study, the researchers note that though intestinal cancer showed the highest reliability figures, the opposite was true for certain types of brain cancer. Here, the reliability was close to 85 percent. Nonetheless, that’s still superior compared to existing cancer tests.

The researchers believe that the blood-brain barrier might be the reason for the lower accuracy for detecting various forms of brain cancer. A blood-brain barrier is a sort of filtering mechanism of the capillaries that carry blood to the brain and spinal cord tissue, blocking the passage of certain substances, and protecting the brain from influences, such as parasites and viruses present in the rest of the human body.

Although this medical breakthrough is still in an early experimental phase, Dr. Würdinger’s team of scientists are currently working on a inexpensive, fast, and usable blood test for public use, which is anticipated to be available by the year 2020.This newly developed cancer test was used on most common types of cancer. The pioneering technique offers a groundbreaking grouping of powerful computer algorithms in the diagnosis of the cancer through a single drop of blood.

This recent cancer study by Dr. Tom Würdinger and his colleagues is published in the journal, Cancer Cell, with the title, “RNA-Seq of Tumor-Educated Platelets Enables Blood-Based Pan-Cancer, Multiclass, and Molecular Pathway Cancer Diagnostics.”

Researchers and scientists are making exceptional progress in learning more about cancer and the information that can be derived by looking at blood samples. Perhaps this new and innovative discovery may be what’s needed to win the battle against cancer.