Blood Test Could Help Detect Cancer Earlier In People With Nonspecific Symptoms

Slashdot reader eastlight_jim writes: Scientists from the University of Oxford have today published a study in Clinical Cancer Research which shows that they can use a technique called NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) metabolomics analysis to identify patients with cancer. Specifically, they identify patients with cancer from within a population of generally unwell patients with non-specific symptoms like fatigue and weigh-loss — a traditionally hard-to-diagnose cohort. The technique works because the NMR identifies small molecules called metabolites in the blood of patients and this information can then be used by machine learning to recognise patterns of metabolites specific to cancer, as well as identifying patients whose cancer has already spread. The Guardian reports: If validated, the test could enable cancer patients to be identified earlier, when they are more likely to respond to treatment, and help flag up who could benefit from early access to drugs designed to tackle metastatic cancer. The test can also tell if the disease has spread. There is currently no clear route through which someone with nonspecific symptoms that could be cancer is referred for further investigation.... "The problem we've had in the past is that if they do have cancer, that cancer is growing all the time, and when they come back the cancers are often quite advanced," said Dr James Larkin, of the University of Oxford, who was involved in the research. Although it is difficult to know precisely how many individuals fall into this category, "it is likely to be tens of thousands of patients across the UK," Larkin said.

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