Results of a new study showed that a novel plasma proteome-based test could not only detect cancer but also identify where it was located in the body.
While breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung cancer have screening tests recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), many types of cancers do not have such tests. Developing an accurate screening tool that can identify multiple types of cancer, especially when it's still in the early stages, could potentially save millions of lives.
Now, according to new research findings, a multi-cancer test could be right around the corner.
The study, published in BMJ Oncology, investigated the use of plasma proteins as biomarkers for identifying cancer in specific organs.
The scientists measured more than 3,000 proteins in the blood samples of 440 people diagnosed with early-stage cervical, lung, liver, pancreatic, and other types of cancer. They also collected blood samples from healthy individuals.
Of the more than 3,000 proteins analyzed, the researchers narrowed the number to a test panel of 10 sex-specific protein biomarkers associated with cancer.
The team found that these cancer detection panels were able to identify 93% of stage 1 cancers in males and 84% among females. The test detected stage II and stage III cancers as well. Moreover, sex-specific panels consisting of 150 cancer-associated proteins could identify where the tumor originated in the tissues more than 80% of the time.
The study also uncovered evidence that cancer protein signatures are most likely sex-specific for all cancers.
Because early cancer detection is critical to improve survival rates, the scientists say these findings pave the way for a cost-effective, highly accurate, multi-cancer screening test that could be available to the general public.
Though more investigations using a larger number of diverse participants are needed to determine whether the new plasma proteome-based test is reliable and accurate, the researchers are optimistic.
"Among the four screening tests that have received the highest recommendation (level A) from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (colonoscopy for colon cancer, Pap test for cervical cancer, mammography for breast cancer, and low-dose CT scan for lung cancer), only colonoscopy and low-dose CT scan had an accuracy of above 90% for cancer detection. However, the sensitivity of our test for detecting early-stage cancer was still higher than the sensitivity of these tests," the study's authors wrote.
If validated in further studies, the novel test could redefine how healthcare providers screen for cancer and eventually become part of routine physical exams.