Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in the United States have developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types that account for more than 60% of cancer deaths in the country. The test called CancerSEEK also helps identify the location of the cancer. Being able to test for eight types of cancer with a single noninvasive test can help catch cancer early and allows for better chances of recovery with treatment.

The test evaluates levels of eight cancer proteins and the presence of cancer gene mutations from circulating DNA in the blood. The research team initially explored several hundred genes and 40 protein markers. They brought this down to segments of 16 genes and eight proteins that are highly specific markers for tumours.

The test was evaluated on 1,005 patients with nonmetastatic, stages I to III cancers of the ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, colorectum, lung or breast. The tests overall ability to find cancer was 70% percent. The test showed more than 99% specificity for cancer. The researchers say this is important because false-positive results can subject patients to unnecessary invasive follow-up tests and procedures to confirm the presence of cancer. The test produced only seven false-positive results among was used on 812 healthy control subjects.

The study findings were published the journal Science and larger studies of the test are under way.