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Simple Blood Test Detects Early Stages of Lung, Breast Cancer

Results available within 60 minutes (Sept. 26)

Kansas State University announced on September 26 that researchers have developed a simple blood test that can accurately detect the beginning stages of cancer.

In less than 1 hour, the test can detect breast cancer and non–small-cell lung cancer — the most common type of lung cancer — before symptoms such as coughing and weight loss start. The researchers anticipate testing for the early stages of pancreatic cancer shortly.

"We see this as the first step into a new arena of investigation that could eventually lead to improved early detection of human cancers," said Professor Deryl Troyer. "Right now the people who could benefit the most are those classified as at-risk for cancer, such as heavy smokers and people who have a family history of cancer. The idea is these at-risk groups could go to their physician's office quarterly or once a year, take an easy-to-do, noninvasive test, and be told early on whether cancer has possibly developed."

The researchers say the test would be repeated a short time later. If cancer is confirmed, diagnostic imaging could begin that would otherwise not be routinely pursued.

The test works by detecting increased enzyme activity in the body. Iron nanoparticles coated with amino acids and a dye are introduced to small amounts of blood or urine from a patient. The amino acids and dye interact with enzymes in the patient's urine or blood sample. Each type of cancer produces a specific enzyme pattern, or signature, that can be identified by physicians. After the test has been administered, comprehensive results, including enzyme patterns, are produced in approximately 60 minutes.

Researchers evaluated the test's accuracy in 32 participants with various stages of breast or lung cancer. Data were collected from 20 people with breast cancer (age range: 36 to 81 years) and from 12 people with lung cancer (age range: 27 to 63 years). Twelve people without cancer were also tested as a control group. This group ranged in age from 26 to 62 years.

A blood sample from each person was tested three times. Analysis of the data showed a 95% success rate in detecting cancer in the study participants, including those with breast cancer in stages 0 and 1 and those with lung cancer in stages 1 and 2.

For more information, visit the Kansas State University Web site.

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