A blood test that can detect 10 types of cancer potentially years before someone becomes ill has been described as the 'holy grail' of cancer research.
Scientists in the US have found a simple test can pick up early signs of cancers including breast, ovarian, bowel and lung cancer.
It works by picking up fragments of DNA released into the blood by fast-growing cancer cells.
In a study of more than 1,400 people, the triple test achieved up to 90 per cent accuracy.
Among four cancer-free people who tested positive, the US authors say two women were diagnosed with ovarian and endometrial cancer just months later.
A new blood test can detect 10 types of cancer potentially years before someone becomes ill
'The holy grail of cancer research'
The authors, led by Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, will present their findings at the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, and hope the test could be available within five to 10 years for healthy people who are cancer-free.
Dr Eric Klein, lead author of the research from Cleveland Clinic's Taussig Cancer Institute, said: 'This is potentially the holy grail of cancer research, to find cancers that are currently hard to cure at an earlier stage when they are easier to cure, and we hope this test could save many lives.
There are many different types of blood test. Blood tests can check:the number of different blood cells – white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets you have in your blood (blood count). Each type of blood cell has an important role in how your body works, such as fighting infection or preventing bruising or bleeding how organs such as your liver and kidneys are working for abnormal levels of proteins, called tumour markers. Your doctor may measure these markers to help them make a diagnosis or see how well treatment is working the levels of other substances in the blood that may be linked with certain types of cancer.
Your doctor will decide which blood tests you need. A phlebotomist, nurse or doctor will take a sample of blood, usually from a vein in your arm. This will then be tested in a laboratory.
Source: Macmillan Cancer Support
'Most cancers are detected at a late stage, but this 'liquid biopsy' gives us the opportunity to find them months or years before someone would develop symptoms and be diagnosed.'
The results to be presented at the US medical conference are for more than 1,400 people, of whom 561 were cancer-free, with no diagnosis, while 845 had been newly diagnosed with the disease.
The blood test they were given is expected in the real world to deliver a result in one to two weeks.
It found early warning signs in the blood for 10 types of cancer with accuracy of more than 50 per cent.
The best results were for ovarian and pancreatic cancer, diagnosing 90 and 80 per cent of people with these