Study confirms new affordable cancer screening test for early detection

A new study has presented clinical evidence for a test that can detect clusters of cancer cells in the blood of asymptomatic individuals.

A recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report said one in 10 Indians are likely to develop cancer during their lifetime, while one in 15 are likely to die because of it. Part of the problem lies in late detection of the disease, resulting in more number of deaths.

A new study has now presented clinical evidence for a test that can detect clusters of cancer cells in the blood of asymptomatic individuals. The study was conducted by scientists from India, US and UK.

The test, to be commercially available soon, could potentially make cancer screening easier, efficient and affordable, claim researchers. The cancer screening techniques available now, like mammograms and low-dose CT scans (LDCT) are known to carry radiation risks. Blood-based markers are “non-specific” while tissue biopsies “have the same risks as general surgical procedures”.

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Researchers studied 16,134 participants, including 5509 cancer patients and 10,625 people who showed no symptoms. The test showed an accuracy of more than 94 per cent.

“This is the first study of its kind to investigate the prevalence of circulating tumor emboli or C-ETACs (Circulating Ensembles of Tumor Associated Cells) in over 16,000 participants, to establish the definitive new systemic hallmark of cancer. The technique we have used is a breakthrough innovation. When clusters of cells break off from an early stage tumor and enter the bloodstream, we can efficiently and accurately isolate a few hundred malignant cells from more than 100 million cells, using just 10 ml of blood. While almost all cancer samples had these cell clusters, they were seen in very few of the samples which were apparently without cancer,” Dr Dadasaheb Akolkar, study author and research director, Datar Cancer Genetics, was quoted as saying.

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“Cancer is rapidly becoming a civilisational challenge. Importantly, cancer deaths are mainly because of late detection. We believe that this innovative blood-based test is a breakthrough in cancer screening and will impact outcomes through easy, patient-friendly detection and diagnosis in apparently healthy people who may have a silent malignancy in their bodies! It has the potential to eliminate the need for invasive biopsies and the risks associated with it. In the near future, a simple, inexpensive blood test that could be all that is required to reliably detect and diagnose cancer, even before any symptoms are seen,” added Rajan Datar, chairman and managing director, Datar Cancer Genetics.

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