Johns Hopkins researchers are confident that they have developed an effective way to detect cancer. According to a new profile in MIT Technology Review, Bert Vogelstein's laboratory of researchers at Johns Hopkins is developing a way to screen blood samples quickly and reliably for traces of tumor DNA.
Vogelstein is a renowned cancer researcher who pioneered early investigations into the relationship between cancer and genetics, and claims the new "liquid biopsy" has the potential to save millions of lives. New technology able to efficiently sequence DNA are key to the technology, which identifies mutated cancer cells in a blood sample. MIT Technology Review reports that the test currently under consideration was capable of detecting tumor cells in 80% of patients with advanced cancer and 47% of those who had localized cancer.
The test offers an alternative to others with high rates of false positives because it particularly looks for tumor DNA in their blood. There are downsides to the new technology, such as its current inability to tell precisely where the tumor cells are coming from. But Vogelstein seems confident it will eventually prove a formidable tool in the medical arsenal.