Living

A drop of blood to detect cancer? That would be wonderful

Imagine being able to diagnose cancer with a drop of blood.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine think they are close to that being a reality.

"Currently, we don't know what's going on in a patient's actual tumor cells when a treatment is given," said oncologist Alice Fan, MD, a clinical instructor in the division of oncology at the medical school. "The standard way we measure if a treatment is working is to wait several weeks to see if the tumor mass shrinks. It would really be a leap forward if we could detect what is happening at a cellular level."

As I have noted, early detection is a key to surviving cancer. An article in Wired magazine points out that cancer detected early gives a person nearly a 90 percent chance of surviving. Find it late? It falls to 20 percent and lower pretty quickly.

Biopsies are expensive. My biopsy, which revealed my lymphoma in November, was more than $10,000. Being able to detect cancer from a drop of blood or a small piece of tissue not only saves money, but also time and effort.

Imagine a person being able to be assured they don't have cancer with a simple annual blood test. Or, at least as importantly, being able to detect that cancer early and having a great shot at beating it.

That will be a great step forward for humanity.

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