Lauren Dempsey, MS in Biomedicine and Law, RN, FISM News
A new study confirms that a new blood test can detect cancer at its earliest stage, well before traditional methods, and could change the way modern medicine discovers and treats cancer.
The test was developed by Tzar Labs as well as the chairman of Epigeneres Biotech in 2021, but an updated study was published this month in the journal Stem Cells.
The study included 1,000 participants, split evenly between two cohorts of patients with cancer and patients without. The researchers were able to accurately predict the development of 25 different types of cancer including breast, pancreatic, lung, and colorectal cancer by a blood biopsy technique.
THE MOST ACCURATE TEST YET
Researchers at Tzar Labs created the technology called the HrC test, which is named after their brother-in-law, the late Himanshu Roy, IPS who died from cancer in 2018. The test can detect organ-level RNA mutations directly from the blood by identifying biomarkers for specific cancerous conditions. The test is able to identify the presence of cancer in the blood more than a year before tumors have developed.
Ashish Tripathi, founder and CEO of Tzar Labs and Indian firm Epigeneres Biotech, told Deepak Chopra in an interview that “We can detect [cancer] earlier than other known technologies … before the tumor has physically formed,” going on to explain that the technology can go further than simply detecting cancer it can “tell you which cancer and where it is forming.”
Tripathi further explained that the use of biomarkers is a“common scale for both cancer patients as well as non-cancer subjects, as it indicates the status on a continuum of cancer being absent, imminent, or present; and if present, the stage of cancer as well.”
Although there are other blood tests available to screen for cancer, this new technology focuses on screening stem cells for a set of genetic markers for cancer, which allows the team to predict cancer before tumors are actually present in the body.
The trial results were remarkably precise, finding that some participants in the “non-cancer” control group were found to have a predisposition for certain cancers and the results were 100% accurate. Tripathi noted that through this trial the team “did not get even one false negative, not even one false positive.”
‘THE HOLY GRAIL OF CANCER MEDICINE’
Hospitals in the United Kingdom are beginning to use the new blood test as a proof of concept for the new technology, hoping to replicate the trial results. Dr. Sherif Raouf, a gastrointestinal cancer specialist will lead a trial at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, called this “the holy grail of cancer medicine.”
Raouf explained that current cancer screening tests are often difficult, invasive, and painful.
“Normally this is not an easy process. Many patients currently undergo scans, biopsies, and clinic appointments. To have one blood test to detect the presence of cancer at the earliest stage — or even before it develops — could save many lives. This could be a game-changer.”
Current testing does not have the ability to detect cancer so early and comes with the risk of false negative results. Tripathi said that is why this breakthrough is so important because other tests identify tumor cell fragments in the bloodstream, but in the early stages of cancer, “very few” tumor cells are actually circulating through the blood.
These fragments of tumor DNA are also only detectable once the tumor has grown beyond a certain size. However, the HrC test is able to confirm the absence or presence of cancer and monitor the patient’s response to therapy, remission, and recurrence.
The team hopes “to move cancer from a late-stage to an early-stage disease when it is weaker and infinitely more curable. Early detection can reduce the cost and time of treatment and increase chances of survival significantly.”
The company has filed patents in the United States, Europe, Japan, China, and Singapore to use this diagnostic technology which would allow physicians to test for cancer proactively.