New Blood Test for Cancer Screening

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

FEBRUARY 07, 2018

 This is big news and not-so-big news: a recent report that a blood test can screen for eight of the most common cancers. Clearly if all of the kinks can get worked out, and trials continue to support the test's efficacy, and it is affordable, and we know what to do with the information....that will be helpful. We are not there yet.

  For me, the worrisome thing about this kind of news report is that it may raise all kinds of expectations and hopes and turn out not to be as advertised. CancerSEEK, developed at Johns Hopkins, is a really hopeful advance. As currently envisioned, PCPs could add this blood test to any other bloods that were being drawn, and many people might learn way earlier that cancer had arrived. As we know, generally speaking cancers are much more treatable and even curable if discovered early. By testing circulating DNA in the blood, we might learn of cancer's presence long before any other screening could be effective or a symptom developed.

  Here is one major catch: say that the test indicates that someone has pancreatic or stomach cancer (potentially very difficult cancers for which there currently is no screening), but nothing showed up in scans or MRIs or other tests. Then what? How do you surgically remove something that can't be seen? Do you go ahead and perform major surgery, with all the risks, without knowing with complete certainty that there is a problem. Think about it.


  And read this from Eureka AlertSingle blood test screens for eight cancer types
Provides unique new framework for early detection of the most common cancers

Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.
The test, called CancerSEEK, is a unique noninvasive, multianalyte test that simultaneously evaluates levels of eight cancer proteins and the presence of cancer gene mutations from circulating DNA in the blood. The test is aimed at screening for eight common cancer types that account for more than 60 percent of cancer deaths in the U.S. Five of the cancers covered
by the test currently have no screening test.
"The use of a combination of selected biomarkers for early detection has the potential to change the way we screen for cancer, and it is based on the same rationale for using combinations of drugs to treat cancers," says Nickolas Papadopoulos, M..D., senior author and professor of oncology and pathology.
The findings were published online by Science on Jan. 18, 2018.

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