(INDIANAPOLIS) - New research shows that doctors are getting closer to detecting cancer with a blood test.
Scientists at Stanford University were able to use samples of blood to identify people with lung cancer.
"Really, what they are doing is looking for DNA found in circulating cancer cells," said Dr. Brian Mulherin, an oncologist with St. Vincent Cancer Care in Indianapolis.
"Typically the only way (in the past) to follow the progress of individuals with cancerous tumors are scans - CT scans, MRI's, Xrays, or PT scans."
A new technique developed by the Stanford researchers allowed doctors to scan DNA in blood for mutations that are caused by malignant tumors.
"It's an extremely sensitive technique that can detect one molecule of tumor DNA among 10,000 DNA molecules from healthy blood cells," said Mulherin.
"This study looks specifically at patients with the most common kind of lung cancer - non-small cell cancer, which is about 85-percent of all patients with lung cancer. It is a highly lethal malignancy responsible for the most cancer deaths in the U.S. today."
The best news from the study, Mulherin said, was the early detection of some of the cancers.
"They were able to detect the DNA from these circulating tumor cells in about half of patients with Stage One cancer - stage one being where it's very small, has not spread outside the lungs and is considered very curable - and 100-percent of individuals with more advanced stages of non-small cell lung cancers."
While such a test will not be in regular use with all cancers for several years, Mulherin says it could also help doctors monitor the response of therapy for cancer, "potentially without the need of CT scans, which have their own issues, or at least using less of them."
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