RNA blood test detects, classifies and pinpoints location of cancer

A new blood test shows promise for the detection, classification of location of cancer in the body(Credit: Shutterstock)

In an effort to find an accurate and easy method of detecting and locating cancers, negating the need for invasive cell tissue sampling, researchers from Umeå University in Sweden have developed a new blood test that looks at blood platelets in just a single drop of blood to identify cancer. Results of the method are very promising, with a 96 percent identification accuracy.

We've seen previous research with similar impetus, such as the UK's University of Bradford study that turned to UVA light analysis of DNA in blood samples to identify the presence of cancer. However, the Umeå University team took a rather different approach.

Its research focused on on how tumors "educate" platelet RNA profiles, essentially leaving an imprint of the cancer in the blood. By looking for and at these tumor-educated blood platelets (TEPs), the researchers hoped to accurately identify not only the presence of cancer, but also its location in the body.

The analysis was performed on blood samples taken from 283 patients, 228 of which were known to have some form of cancer. The analysis was able to correctly identify the presence of cancer in 96 percent of cases, and the origin of the tumor was identified with an accuracy of 71 percent. The results also revealed molecular differences in the cancers, which doctors could use to help them pick the best method of treatment for each individual patient.

"Being able to detect cancer at an early stage is vital," said study co-author Jonas Nilsson. "We have studied how a whole new blood-based method of biopsy can be used to detect cancer, which in the future renders an invasive cell tissue sample unnecessary in diagnosing lung cancer, for instance. In the study, nearly all forms of cancer were identified, which proves that blood-based biopsies have an immense potential to improve early detection of cancer."

Overall, the results indicate that the analysis of platelets represents a strong option for identification of cancers all over the body.

The findings of the research were published in the journal Cancer Cell.

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