Key Takeaways

  • Scientists have developed a new type of blood test that detects cancer by spotting DNA changes associated with cancer tumors. 
  • The current accuracy of the test is about 32% for stage one cancer, 76% for stage two, 85% for stage three, and 93% for stage four cancer. In 99.4% of cases, the test identified the disease correctly.
  • In general, the test spotted 76% of high-mortality types of cancer.
  • This method could help physicians to diagnose many cases of cancer sooner, and thus potentially improve the effectiveness of treatment.

Finally, a test that could prevent cancer?

Most types of cancer are silent during the early stages of their development. 

When the patient reports experiencing unusual symptoms, often the condition is already advanced and life-threatening. This is exactly why cancer is such a deadly disease: treatment is most effective in the early stages, but they are often missed due to a lack of symptoms.

Scientists and physicians have long been trying to create a simple way of routinely screening for cancer, and maybe we’re finally approaching an effective solution.

How does this work?

The developers of this blood test analyzed samples of cell-free DNA that enters the bloodstream after the host cell dies. After comparing the samples from 2,000 healthy people and 1,500 cancer patients, the scientists were able to pinpoint specific DNA methylation patterns that indicate cancer.

The new method worked well, even against deadly pancreatic and ovarian cancers. Both types are particularly hard to diagnose early.

What types of cancer can it identify?

The initial sample included patients with more than 20 types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, gastric, gallbladder, esophageal, ovarian, and pancreatic cancer. Hopefully, the test will be able to identify more types of cancer as the research progresses.


Blood tests that rely on DNA methylation analysis seem to be much more effective than the DNA-sequencing methods routinely used in many cases today.

It could take a while before this blood test becomes available for the general public, but these discoveries are exciting for the progress towards prevention and a cure.

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