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A blood test for cancer using DNA fragments offers hope for earlier detection, researchers say

A blood test for cancer using DNA fragments offers hope for earlier detection, researchers say

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Researchers have developed a new machine learning model for detection cancers that are at an early stage of disease by examining DNA fragments from cancer cells in the blood.

University of Wisconsin–Madison the research team was able to detect cancer in the bloodstream in most of the samples tested, he said.

Muhammad Murtaza, a professor of surgery at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health based in Madison, Wis., led the study, which was published recently in Science Translational Medicine, a medical journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, according to a study press release .

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“We are extremely excited to find that early detection and monitoring of multiple cancers is potentially feasible using such a cost-effective approach,” Murtaza said in the press release.

Earlier detection of many cancers will lead to better patient outcomes, the release noted.

“We are extremely excited to find that early detection and monitoring of multiple cancers is potentially feasible using such a cost-effective approach,” says the lead author of a new study.
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Although other scientists are also developing blood tests to detect cancer earlier, the current technology has limitations, such as cost and the “sensitivity” of the test.

Sensitivity in this case refers to the test’s ability to correctly detect the presence of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How is the test done?

When cells die as part of the body’s natural cell turnover process, fragments of DNA are released outside the cells. They begin circulating in the bloodstream — namely plasma, which is the liquid part of blood, according to the researchers.

“It should focus on patients who have a significant family history or personal risk factors, or who have genetic syndromes that are associated with getting multiple cancers.”

The research team hypothesized that cancer cells have DNA fragments that are different from healthy cells, specifically where the DNA strands “break”. Nucleotides, which are the “building blocks of DNA,” surround these breakpoints.

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The research team used a special technique, which the study called Genome-wide AnaLYsis of FRagment Ends — or GALYFRE — to analyze the “cell-free” DNA from 521 samples.

For a new study, a research team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison also

For a new study, a research team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison also “sorted” data from an additional 2,147 samples from two groups of people: healthy individuals – and patients with 11 different types of cancer.
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The team also “sorted” data from an additional 2,147 samples from two groups of people: healthy individualsand patients with 11 different types of cancer.

“DNA sequencing means determining the order of the four chemical building blocks — called ‘bases’ — that make up the DNA molecule,” according to the National Institutes of Health’s Human Genome Research website.

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“The sequence tells scientists the kind of genetic information that is carried in a particular segment of DNA.”

The research team then used these analyzes to develop a metric that could reflect the proportion of DNA molecules that were from cancer in each sample.

A machine learning model

They combined this measure with the genetic information found in the DNA fragments to develop a model that trained a machine to compare DNA fragments from healthy cells with DNA fragments from different types of cancer cells.

“The sequence tells scientists the kind of genetic information that is carried in a particular segment of DNA.”

This pattern distinguished people with cancer at any stage of their diagnosis from people without cancer 91% of the time.

It also “accurately identified samples from patients with stage 1 cancer 87 percent of the time, suggesting it holds promise for early cancer detection,” according to the release.

The research team hopes to conduct more clinical trials to validate the blood test for specific types of cancer, such as pancreatic cancer and breast cancer.

The research team hopes to conduct more clinical trials to validate the blood test for specific types of cancer, such as pancreatic cancer and breast cancer.
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The study, while promising, notes that more research is needed to apply the use of GALYFRE to patients in different age groups and those who have multiple medical problems.

Improvement is needed for the future

The research team hopes to conduct more clinical trials to validate the blood test for specific types of cancer, such as pancreatic cancer and breast cancer.

“One direction we are taking is to refine GALYFRE to make it even more accurate for certain patients who are at risk of developing specific cancers,” Murtaza noted in the release.

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His team is also looking to see if this technology can be used not only to detect cancers earlier, but also to monitor how chemotherapy patients respond to cancer treatment.

The researchers hope that “this work will lead to a blood test for cancer detection and monitoring that will be available clinically within the next 2-5 years for at least some conditions.”

“I find that using cell-free DNA and liquid biopsy will be most beneficial for patients with a known diagnosis of cancer and [for] after treatment for surveillance for disease recurrence — avoiding the need for [high-risk] biopsy,” Oren N. Gottfried, MD, professor at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolinatold Fox News Digital.

“This is especially true in brain cancer, where any brain biopsy involves significant risk,” added Gottfried, who is also a neurosurgeon.

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“Overall as a screening tool, I think it should focus on patients who have a significant family history or personal risk factors, or who have genetic syndromes that are associated with getting multiple cancers.”

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Murtaza of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health hopes with further research and development that “this work will lead to a blood test for cancer detection and monitoring that will be available clinically within the next 2-5 years for at least some conditions – and eventually be accessible to patients with disabilities health care resources in the US and around the world,” he said in the press release.


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