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Medicine Science

A Blood Test That Screens For Cancer 71

sciencehabit writes "People usually find out that they have cancer after developing symptoms or through a screening test such as a mammogram—signs that may appear only after the cancer has grown or spread so much that it can't be cured. But what if you could find out from a simple, highly accurate blood test that you had an incipient tumor? By sequencing the abnormal DNA that a tumor releases into a person's bloodstream, researchers are now one step closer to a universal cancer test. Although the technique is now only sensitive enough to detect advanced cancers, that may be a matter of money: As sequencing costs decrease, the developers of the method say the test could eventually pick up early tumors as well."
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A Blood Test That Screens For Cancer

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  • by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:26AM (#42139653) Homepage

    The methodology seems to account for the many types of cancer, at least in theory, since it's based on finding differences in DNA sequences. As long as a fingerprint exists wouldn't this technique find it?

    But this also sounds very preliminary. The sample size was very small and it took a month to get the results.

  • by phayes ( 202222 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:58AM (#42139759) Homepage

    I'm not sure that scanning for genetic changes will turn out to be useful.

    Not every genetic change results in cancer as many will result in the cells dying off or being innocuous. Working on bringing the detection threshold down to low enough values to detect small tumours may just end up detecting many small cancers.

    In addition, recent work shows that many small cancers are not as problematic as as long been thought. We now know that the body naturally wipes out many cancers without help. Detecting the small cancers that need treatment is much harder than it appears.

  • Re:Nobel prize (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2012 @07:39AM (#42140203)

    We may find out that our bodies spontaneously develop and recover from cancers all the time.

  • Re:Nobel prize (Score:5, Interesting)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @08:27AM (#42140387)
    Hold the phone, there, Alfred. You have to think about how early you want to be able to find mutating cells. There is a sweet spot of detection - when the cancer is not yet so advanced that it can be treated - below which you may want to think twice about going. If this research results in the ability to detect cells as soon as they mutate, you and the media may think this is a great advance, but the body's immune system is able to sense and kill the vast majority of mutating cells before they grow into a tumor. At a certain detection level, the test is going to give positive results for "cancer" for most people. Then what do you do? You go to the doctor and the doctor tells you that you have malignant cells in your body. Are you going to not worry or are you going to demand treatment?
  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:48AM (#42141287) Homepage Journal

    Yerba mate, green tea, and black tea are all highly anti-cancer. Mate is actually awesome for this; steamed green tea is pretty close; black tea less so, but it has its own strengths over the others. It's worth having a pot of Earl Grey or Irish Breakfast Tea in the morning, and a pot of green tea (gunpowder, any of the various $15-$200 Sencha greens, etc) in the afternoon.

    Meanwhile people cry about HFCS, which is an abomination but relatively harmless; look at all the wheat we eat, and our response is to eat whole grains because they're less bad. People figure this out and go Atkins, instead of just eating less than 3000 calories from wheat every day. Over-salted, fumigated crap gets pureed, strained, cooked, then mixed with benzoates and sorbates and parabeens for us to eat or rub onto our skin. All that's bad, but removing it all won't really help if you keep eating crap--like tons of wheat, tons of rice, tons of greasy fatty shit, all things that are good for you but not so god damn much with so little else--and keep sitting on your ass all the time.

    Those toxic chemicals will go away if you bike to work every day. Live 5 miles from work? That's 10 miles a day. Suck down potassium and magnesium and sodium out of a CamelBak, chomping on Clif bars if you need it, and shove a greasy full English down your throat in the morning cooked in a ton of lard. Hell, use the canned sorbated bullshit, your body will just shove it out your lymph system while you burn through all that crap.

1 Mole = 007 Secret Agents