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Finds a Whole Bunch

A new blood test can detect dozens of cancers, New Scientist reports.

An international team of researchers developed a classifier using data from the Circulating Cell-free Genome Atlas study to distinguish patients with cancer from healthy controls based on the methylation patterns found among cell-free DNA in their blood. After developing the classifier using 1,742 individuals with cancer and 1,391 without, they validated on a set of 740 individuals with cancer and 614 without to find the approach had a specificity of 99.3, as they report in the Annals of Oncology.

New Scientist notes, though, that the true positive rate of the test varied by how advanced the cancer was and was more accurate for later-stage disease. The Guardian adds that the test could also determine the tissue of origin for with about 93 percent accuracy.

Cancer Research UK's David Crosby tells the Guardian that the test is promising, but that it needs to be further refined. "More research is needed to improve the test's ability to catch early cancers and we still need to explore how it might work in a real cancer screening scenario," he tells the paper.