A research team that includes the chair of UC San Diego's Department of Bioengineering said it developed a blood test that can detect certain forms of cancer in asymptomatic patients up to four years earlier than conventional methods, the university announced on Tuesday.
PanSeer detects stomach, esophageal, colorectal, lung and liver cancer, according to UCSD, which said the test detected cancer in 91% of samples collected from then-asymptomatic patients who were diagnosed with cancer one to four years later.
The test is unlikely to predict who will develop cancer but rather would identify whether someone already has cancerous growths, but is asymptomatic, according to UCSD. In addition, "the test is unable to distinguish which of the five types of cancer a patient has, based on the DNA fragments, meaning additional tests would be needed to determine the specific cancer type," reported NBC News.
"The ultimate goal would be performing blood tests like this routinely during annual health checkups," said Kun Zhang, UCSD Bioengineering Department chair. "But the immediate focus is to test people at higher risk, based on family history, age or other known risk factors."
UCSD said the team used blood samples collected as part of a 10-year study launched in 2007 by Fudan University, in China. In addition to Zhang, the team also includes researchers from Fudan and from Singlera Genomics, a startup co-founded by Zhang.
The team said further studies are needed to confirm PanSeer's potential as an early detection test.