Cancer blood tests using DNA fragments give hope for earlier detection, say researchers

Researchers have developed a new machine learning model to detect early-stage cancers by examining DNA fragments from cancer cells in the blood.

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

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

KIRSTIE ALLEY’S ‘RECENTLY DISCOVERED’ COLON CANCER BATTLE: WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE DISEASE

“We are incredibly excited to discover that early detection and monitoring of multiple cancers may be feasible with such a cost-effective approach,” Murtaza said in the press release.

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

“We are incredibly excited to find that early detection and monitoring of multiple cancers may be feasible with 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, current technology has limitations, such as the cost and the “sensitivity” of the test.

Sensitivity, in this case, refers to the test’s ability 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 renewal, bits of DNA are released outside the cells. These begin to circulate in the bloodstream, namely the plasma, the liquid part of the blood, according to the researchers.

“It should target patients who have significant family history or personal risk factors, or who have genetic syndromes associated with getting multiple cancers.”

The research team hypothesized that cancer cells have DNA fragments that differ from healthy cells, particularly where the DNA strands “break”. Nucleotides, the “building blocks of DNA,” surround these breakpoints.

ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE MAY BECOME DETECTABLE THROUGH MAJOR FLOOD TEST, RESEARCH FINDS

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

A research team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison also participated in a new study

For a new study, a research team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison also “sequenced” data from another 2,147 samples from two groups of people: healthy individuals — and patients with 11 different types of cancer.
(iStock)

The team also “sequenced” data from another 2,147 samples from two groups of people: healthy individuals and patients with 11 different types of cancer.

“Sequencing DNA means determining the sequence of the four chemical building blocks — called “bases” — that make up the DNA molecule,” states the National Institutes of Health’s website on human genome research.

‘EYE’ ON LIFE: WOMAN GOES VIRAL TO SHOW HOW TO INSERT ARTIFICIAL EYE AFTER BATTLE OF CANCER

“The sequence tells scientists the kind of genetic information carried in a particular segment of DNA.”

The research team then used these analyzes to develop a metric that could show the proportion of DNA molecules in each sample that came from cancer.

Machine learning model

They combined this measure with the genetic information found on the DNA fragments to develop a model that trains a machine to compare DNA fragments from healthy cells to DNA fragments from different types of cancer cells.

“The sequence tells scientists the kind of genetic information carried in a particular segment of DNA.”

This model distinguished people with cancer at any stage of their diagnosis in 91% of cases from those without cancer.

It also “accurately identified samples from patients with stage 1 cancer in 87% of cases, suggesting its promise for detecting early-stage cancer,” according to the release.

The research team hopes to conduct more clinical studies to validate the blood test for specific cancers, such as pancreatic cancer and breast cancer.

The research team hopes to conduct more clinical studies to validate the blood test for specific cancers, such as pancreatic cancer and breast cancer.
(iStock)

The study, while promising, notes that more research is needed to apply the use of GALYFRE to patients of different age groups and patients with multiple medical problems.

Refinement needed for the future

The research team hopes to conduct more clinical studies to validate the blood test for specific cancers, such as pancreatic cancer and breast cancer.

“One direction we’re taking is refining GALYFRE to make it even more accurate for some patients who are at risk of developing specific types of cancer,” Murtaza noted in the release.

RETIRING EARLY CAN HARM YOUR HEALTH: NEW STUDY

His team is also looking at whether this technology could be used not only to detect cancer earlier, but also to monitor how chemotherapy patients respond to cancer treatments.

Researchers hope that “this work will lead to a blood test for detecting and monitoring cancer that will be clinically available for at least some conditions in the next 2-5 years.”

“I feel that using cell-free DNA and a liquid biopsy will be most helpful for patients with a known diagnosis of cancer and [for] after treatment to check for recurrence of the disease – avoiding the need for [high-risk] biopsy,” Dr. Oren N. Gottfried, a professor at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham North Carolina, told Fox News Digital.

“This is especially true for brain cancer, where any brain biopsy carries a significant risk,” added Gottfried, who is also a neurosurgeon.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR OUR HEALTH NEWSLETTER

“In general, as a screening tool, I think it should target patients who have significant family history or personal risk factors, or who have genetic syndromes associated with multiple cancers.”

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

Murtaza of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health hopes with further research and development that “this work will lead to a blood test for detecting and monitoring cancer that will be clinically available in the next 2-5 years for at least some conditions – and ultimately be accessible to patients with limited healthcare resources in the US and around the world,” he said in the press release.

Leave a Comment