A quick blood test for smokers could reduce the death rate from lung cancer, research suggests.
A British study involving 12,200 people discovered that the test discovered cancer more than four years before tumors appeared on scans.
The study, conducted by scientists at universities at Dundee and St. Andrews, discovered that many more people were diagnosed with cancer at an early stage of the blood test.
A quick blood test for smokers could reduce the death rate from lung cancer, research suggests
The study – presented at the World Conference on Lung Cancer in Barcelona – found that 41 percent of patients who received the blood test and subsequently a CT scan were diagnosed in phase one or two when tumors can still be treated.
For those who only received a CT scan after the onset of symptoms – as is common with the NHS – 27 percent were diagnosed at these stages.
Experts say that early diagnosis is crucial for survival – allowing faster treatment, better results, and fewer deaths.
Of the 6,087 people who received the blood test, 17 died within two years. There were 24 deaths among 6,121 who did not receive the test, which is about a 29 percent difference.
Researchers say that these numbers are too small to be sure that it will save lives, but they expect that after a few years of follow-up they will see larger numbers and a larger difference.
Oncimmune, the British company behind the test, plans to submit its findings to the UK National Screening Committee.
Ultimately, bosses hope that their test is the first NHS screening program for lung cancer, where anyone who has smoked for more than 20 years will get the test. Currently, smokers are usually sent for CT scans if they report symptoms, including repetitive cough.
But if the test is approved, a blood test will be offered to anyone over the age of 50 who has smoked 20 cigarettes a day for 20 years.
The study, led by scientists from the University of St. Andrews, discovered that many more people were diagnosed with cancer at an early stage of the blood test
The researchers believe that they will see similar results in the future for other types of cancer – including breast, prostate, liver and ovarian cancer.
Study leader Professor Frank Sullivan of the University of St. Andrews said: & # 39; These historical findings probably have globally important implications for the early detection of lung cancer by demonstrating how a simple blood test, followed by CT scans, can increase the number patients diagnosed at an earlier stage of the disease, when surgery is still possible and the prospects for survival are much higher. & # 39;
The test works by spotting antibodies that are produced as part of the body's defenses against cancer.
The antibodies differ slightly for each type of cancer.
For lung cancer, the test incorporates seven different antibodies.
The company's liver test, which detects a different set of antibodies, was launched in May 2018 and tests for colon, prostate, breast, ovarian and stomach cancer are being tested.
Annually, around 47,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK, 41,000 of whom are smokers or former smokers.
Fewer than 9 percent of patients survive five years, and 35,000 are killed each year by the disease.
Geoffrey Hamilton-Fairley, vice president and co-founder of Oncimmune, said the results of the research promised to shake up the world of cancer testing.
& # 39; This will completely change the cancer diagnosis & # 39 ;, he said. & # 39; Personalized medicine has arrived. & # 39;
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