Technology continues to produce new innovations in the field of cancer research, prevention and treatment, and a new test is set to revolutionise the niche still further.
By the end of the decade, it is predicted that a 10-minute test which enables cancer to be detected will be available in the UK.
Patients who purchase the “liquid biopsy” would be required to send a small amount of saliva off to a laboratory.
Scientists can then analyse the saliva provided by the patient in order to ascertain whether or not it contains fragments of tumour DNA.
And the good news for people concerned about their health is that the test will be extremely affordable, and widely available in the relatively short-term.
According to Professor David Wong, the scientist behind the test, it would cost roughly £15 to buy and could be sold in the UK in as little as four years time.
And Wong believes that full clinical trials will be undertaken before the end of the existing calendar year.
Wong works at the University of California in Los Angeles, and recently spoke at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Washington.
Here Wong argued that the test is extremely durable and effective and could boost cancer treatment considerably.
“If there is a circulating signature of a tumour in a person’s blood or saliva, this test will find it. We need less than one drop of saliva and we can turn the test around in 10 minutes. It can be done in a doctor’s office while you wait Early detection is crucial.”
It is already known that the amount of time taken to diagnose cancer can have a huge influence over the efficacy of treatment.
Yet is currently it takes two weeks to diagnose cancer in Britain via a blood test or tissue sample.
Already tests on the new saliva method have produced near perfect results, and it is hoped that it could be implemented in public settings by 2020.
Additionally, Professor Wong believes that it will be possible for the test to be used to detect numerous types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer which has “no effective early screening capabilities”.
Prototypes of the saliva test are being made and will be tested in China and Europe this year. They will need to be given regulatory approval before going on sale in the UK.
Dr Áine McCarthy, Cancer Research UK’s science information officer, was enthusiastic about the new technique.
“Developing new techniques to diagnose cancer earlier is an important part of global efforts to tackle the disease. Detecting tell-tale signs of cancer in blood, saliva or urine, instead of taking tissue samples, is one area that’s showing a lot of promise and could speed up diagnosis. Researchers are working to get these tests ready for routine use – it’s crucial to understand how accurate they are and how doctors can best use them alongside current scans and tests.”