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Blood-Based Test Detects Gastrointestinal Cancers with High Accuracy, Study Finds


A circulating cell-free DNA test for patients with gastrointestinal cancers has a 90% accuracy rate to detect patients’ cancers and could provide a standard test in the future, according to new study findings.

Researchers were able to detect the location of multiple gastrointestinal tumor types with 90% accuracy by using a circulating cell-free DNA blood-based test, says Dr. Brian M. Wolpin.

During the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium, Wolpin, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, presented updated findings from the study assessing this test for multiple cancer types, including, liver, pancreatic, colon and rectal.

Wolpin sat down with CURE® to discuss how the test detects these gastrointestinal tumors and the main takeaway from the study.


I think the takeaway is that using circulating cell-free DNA, and in particular a targeted methylation approach, which was what was done in this study, can detect cancer with good sensitivity and very high specificity.

The high specificity is really important because it reduces the number of false-positive tests that would occur where you start to screen people in the general population. The sensitivity is important because that's what allows you to identify patients early before the disease has become advanced.

So I think the main takeaway was that cell-free DNA testing can allow gastrointestinal tumor detection with high sensitivity and high specificity, and then it also allows us to try and identify the site of origin of the cancer, meaning which organ did it originate from, and we were able to do that with approximately 90% accuracy.

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