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Jan 23, 2023

Cancer Blood Test Using DNA Fragments Brings Hope for Earlier Detection, Say Researchers

Researchers have developed a new machine-learning model to detect cancers that are in their early stages of disease by examining DNA fragments from cancer cells in the blood.

A University of Wisconsin­–Madison research team was able to detect cancer in the bloodstream in most of the samples tested, it said. 

Muhammed Murtaza, professor of surgery at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health based in Madison, Wisconsin, led the study, which was published recently in Science Translational Medicine, a medical journal from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, according to the study’s press release.  

“We’re incredibly excited to discover that early detection and monitoring of multiple cancer types are potentially feasible using such a cost-effective approach,” said Murtaza in the press release. 

Earlier detection of many cancers will lead to better outcomes for patients, the release noted.

“We’re incredibly excited to discover that early detection and monitoring of multiple cancer types are potentially feasible using such a cost-effective approach,” says the lead author of a new study. (iStock)

Although other scientists are also developing blood tests to detect cancer earlier, the present technology has limitations, such as cost and the “sensitivity” of the test.

Sensitivity, in this case, refers to the ability of the test to correctly detect the presence of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

How is the test done?

When cells die as part of the body’s natural process of cell turnover, fragments of DNA are released outside the cells. These start to circulate in the bloodstream — namely, the plasma, which is the liquid portion of the blood, according to the researchers. The research team hypothesized that cancer cells have DNA fragments that are different from healthy cells, specifically where the DNA strands “break.” Nucleotides, which are the “building blocks of DNA,” surround these break points. 

The research team used a special technique that the study named Genome-wide AnaLYsis of FRagment Ends — or GALYFRE — to analyze the “cell-free” DNA from 521 samples.

You can read more in an article by Shiv Sudhakar published in the Fox News web site at: https://www.foxnews.com/health/cancer-blood-test-dna-hope-earlier-detection-researchers.

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