Our network

A Simple Blood Test for Early Detection of Cancer -- Maybe | News

Title (Max 100 Characters)

A Simple Blood Test for Early Detection of Cancer -- Maybe

ATLANTA, Ga. -- A potentially revolutionary cancer test announced in Boston on Monday could detect cancer almost immediately, when the emerging cancer is nothing more than a few cells in the blood, long before it has grown and spread.

Many cancer patients and survivors in Atlanta and across the rest of the country are wary, because the test is still years away from reality.

"I was absolutely elated" at first, Kristen Moss, a cancer survivor, said Monday evening about hearing the announcement earlier Monday:

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said they are teaming up with Johnson and Johnson to develop and market a blood test for cancer.

It would be a test in which a doctor could detect, in one drop of blood, a single cancer cell out of a billion healthy cells.

It would be the earliest of early detection -- the doctor would find cancer in the body long before it's grown into a tumor that shows up in an X-Ray.

Then Kristen Moss heard the disclaimer that the test is years away from reaching the market place, if it ever does.

"It was a huge emotional letdown," she said.

At the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta, researchers work 24 hours a day trying to discover and perfect better cancer detection and treatments.

Physician Suresh Ramalingam, of the Department of  Hematology and Medical Oncology, applauded the announcement of the potential new blood test for cancer.

But he applauded it cautiously.

"I think this is an exciting development, but it's certainly not something the patient is going to be able to go to the doctor's office tomorrow and find out if he or she has tumor cells in the blood."

If it becomes reality, the blood test would detect not only new cancer or returning cancer, but the new blood test would also take the place of painful biopsies, and doctors could much more easily monitor whether cancer treatments are working.

Kristen Moss and other survivors are saying -- take the news with hope AND skepticism.

"Fantastic. Sign me up. I will be there. I hate needles, but I will be there every single month to give them blood, if that's what it takes for them to tell me whether or not my cancer has returned. But in the meantime, don't dangle the carrot in front of those of us that are fighting the disease."

"The technology appears to be very... promising and exciting," said Dr. Ramalingam. "Even before your tumor is visible, if you can detect those few circulating tumor cells" in the blood, he said, "then you know something is wrong and then start looking exactly where those cells are coming from.... It could be years away, for sure."