Israeli scientists say they have invented a blood test that can detect colorectal cancer, which is normally detected by an invasive test, and pancreatic cancer, which today has no single diagnostic test.
They say the test could also simplify screening for other cancers and save lives by eliminating invasive colonoscopies for colorectal cancer, which many patients fear and skip.
Dr. Efrat Shema developed special technology for single molecule imaging of blood samples and successfully used this innovation to screen for colorectal cancer – the cancer used for proof of concept.
She detailed the breakthrough, achieved with her colleagues at the Weizmann Institute of Science, in a new peer-reviewed journal article published in Nature Biotechnology, revealing that her test achieved 92% accuracy in detecting colorectal cancer. .
She said the first tests had been done on colorectal cancer, but the test was also designed to screen for pancreatic cancer and will be adapted to detect a wide range of cancers, and possibly other diseases as well.
“We successfully completed a proof of concept for our method, which now needs to be confirmed in clinical trials,” she said. “In the future, our approach could be used to diagnose not only various cancers, but also other diseases that leave traces in the blood, such as autoimmune diseases and heart disease.”
Its first priority is to carry out clinical tests for pancreatic cancer – which is usually only tested when people show symptoms and requires a range of diagnostic methods, some of them invasive – and for colorectal cancer.
Currently, people over 50 are advised to undergo colonoscopies to screen for colorectal cancer, but they are invasive, painful and expensive in some countries, Shema said, adding that alternative methods also have drawbacks, as the Obtaining biopsy specimens by needle, endoscopy or surgery can be painful and sometimes risky, while imaging methods, such as MRI or PET, require expensive and bulky equipment that is not widely available. .
“We hope to introduce blood tests that could potentially replace colonoscopies to detect colorectal cancer, which could save lives,” Shema told The Times of Israel. “That’s because many people don’t show up for colonoscopies, either because of its invasiveness or cost, although the same people are likely to have blood tests.”
Shema said the test only requires one milliliter of blood and suggested that although the primary focus so far has been colorectal cancer, it could be adapted for a variety of other cancers.
Using Shema’s imaging technique, his team – which included Nir Erez, Dr Noa Furth and Vadim Fedyuk – compared the DNA in the blood of 30 healthy people with that of 60 colorectal cancer patients at different stages.
He found a few differences and built an algorithm with Hebrew University Professor Guy Ron to provide a blood test based on those differences.
“Our algorithm could differentiate between healthy and patient groups at an all time high level of certainty for studies of this type – with 92% accuracy,” Shema said.
His team is now working to move from the proof-of-concept phase, which has just ended, to a larger trial.
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