The study is a comprehensive review of the current evidence in order to identify cancer-specific blood markers for further clinical development.
All cancers produce compounds that end up in the bloodstream, so it is feasible that such blood markers could form the basis of a general screening test for many different forms of cancer.
Ian Cree, a professor of pathology at the University of Warwick Medical School in the UK and lead author of the study, says the work he and the other members of theUK Early Cancer Detection Consortium carried out "is a new approach to early detection and is the first time such a systematic review has been done."
"A single blood-based screening test would be a game changer for early detection of cancer, which could help make it a curable disease for many more patients," he adds.
The Cancer Research UK-funded study was presented on Sunday at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI)Cancer Conference, which is taking place November 2nd-5th, 2014, in Liverpool, UK.
The researchers sought to answer the question: "What biomarkers exist that could be used to develop a general cancer screening assay from blood sampling and what is their state of development?"
Altogether, they reviewed 19,000 scientific papers and identified more than 800 markers in the blood of cancer patients.
Prof. Cree says they believe they have "identified all the relevant biomarkers; the next step is working out which ones work the best for spotting cancers."
The evidence they collected will help them "prepare for the next stage of the blood test development as it moves forward into clinical laboratory based tests," note the researchers.
Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, describes the study as "an innovative and promising new approach," adding:
"And although in its early stages, it shows how our increased understanding of cancers' 'markers' and new technologies are combining to offer new opportunities to detect cancer sooner."
Cancer cells often start shedding blood markers long before many of the signs and symptoms of tumors begin to emerge.
Earlier diagnosis generally means treatment is more effective, which, in turn, improves survival.
"Our goal over the next 20 years is that 3 in 4 cancer patients will survive at least 10 years after their diagnosis," says Hiom.
Medical News Today recently learned how researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine have discovered biomarkers that could be used in a blood test to screen people at higher risk of pancreatic cancer - a disease that currently has a very poor survival rate because it is rarely spotted before the cancer has started spreading.
Written by Catharine Paddock PhD