New Blood Test Can Detect 8 Types of Cancer

Researchers have developed a new blood test that can detect eight common types of cancer, including the notoriously elusive liver and pancreatic cancers. Some day, doctors may be able to use this method to spot cancers in their early stages — before the onset of symptoms — thus improving patients' chances of successful treatment and survival. The test, called CancerSEEK, looks for a number of compounds in the blood that are thought to be early signs of cancer. These include 16 different cancer "driver genes" — genes that are associated with tumors — and eight proteins, according to the study describing the test, which was published Jan. 18 in the journal Science.

"The sort of ultimate vision is that at the same time that you are getting your cholesterol checked when you are getting your annual physical, you will also get your blood screened for cancer," said lead study author Joshua Cohen, a medical and doctoral student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. [10 Do's and Don'ts to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer] What's more, the test appears to be able to screen for five cancers for which screening tests aren't currently available: ovarian, stomach, esophageal, liver and pancreatic. These cancers typically don't cause symptoms until they reach more advanced stages of the disease, when treatment becomes difficult.