Blood test for early-stage cancer

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Science  13 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6360, pp. 184
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6360.184-c

Cancer cells release circulating tumor DNA into the bloodstream, which can sometimes be used to measure tumor progression and treatment response. Chan et al. sought to address whether so-called “liquid biopsies” could be used to diagnose cancer before an individual had symptoms. They used nasopharyngeal cancer as a model, which is known to be associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection. By screening EBV DNA in the plasma from more than 20,000 Chinese men, the researchers were able to accurately detect early-stage nasopharyngeal cancer in this high-risk population. In a 3-year study, the blood test increased the patient survival rate to 97%, compared with around 70% in a historical cohort.

N. Engl. J. Med. 10.1056/NEJMoa1701717 (2017).

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