• Scientists have developed a list of 788 ‘biomarkers’ found in the blood
  • These are tell-tale signs showing cancer is present in a person’s body
  • Hope to develop a blood test to check for different types of the disease
  • Test would allow doctors to spot disease before it has spread or is deadly

Madlen Davies for MailOnline



A test which could detect dozens of cancers before they become deadly could be widely available within ten years, according to new research.

Scientists have trawled through five years worth of studies and have identified a list of 788 ‘biomarkers’ in the blood.

These are tell-tale signs that show cancer is present in the body, even when the patient is not suffering symptoms.

With this information, researchers hope to develop a single blood test which could check for different types of the disease.

The test would allow doctors to identify cancer before it has spread – and allow patients to begin treatment immediately.

A test to detect dozens of types of cancer before they become deadly could be widely available within ten years, scientists claim

The work was carried out on behalf of the Early Cancer Detection Consortium (ECDC), a group of nearly 40 organisations, including universities, hospitals and companies. 

The team – from the Universities of Sheffield, Coventry and Warwick – started with over 19,000 scientific studies published over the last five years that investigated blood based biomarkers.

They reduced this to 4,000 studies before creating a final list of biomarkers. 

Professor Ian Cree, a molecular pathologist and director of the ECDC, said next they hope to whittle the list of biomarkers down to 50 and create a test to identify these in patients.

He said: ‘Our vision is that the screen will pick up even the small amounts of these biomarkers that might be in the blood at an early stage of the cancer, without necessarily identifying which cancer they relate to. 

‘Patients would then be referred for more specific tests, that could narrow down the tumour type.’

He told the Telegraph: ‘It would be great if we could pick up 95 per cent of all cancers. 

‘But we need to make this available to the general population so it has to be accurate. We don’t want to worry people unnecessarily or give false reassurance.’ 

The test would allow doctors to identify cancer before it has spread – and allow patients to begin treatment immediately, researchers said (file photo)

They hope to carry out a trial in humans to check the test is accurate and cost-effective, and imagine the process could take up to seven years, he said.

But a test for high risk groups could be ready in as little as three, he added. 

The ECDC has set up a company, Pinpoint Cancer Ltd, to take the research forward and is actively seeking investment and funding for the next stages of the project.

Fiona Osgun, Cancer Research UK’s senior health information officer, said: ‘?Early detection is a vital area of research, and that’s why Cancer Research UK is investing in projects exploring its potential.

‘A blood test to detect different types of cancer is an exciting idea, but before a test like this could be used, there needs to be strong evidence that it’s accurate, could save lives, and its benefits would outweigh the risks – such as the possibility of diagnosing cancers that would never have caused harm.’ 


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