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New Test Improves Blood Cancer Detection

A new test for blood cancers has been found to catch many more cases than the existing screening methods that now identify only 60 percent of cases.
The new test, detailed in a report by Medical Xpress, is able to detect a newly identified cancer gene that accounts for the 40 percent of chronic blood cancers missed by current testing techniques.
In a report on the test in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, Tony Green, from the University of Cambridge’s Cambridge Institute for Medical Research and Department of Hematology, said it could provide an easier and more effective way to identify blood cancers that strike tens of thousands of people.
“Diagnosing these chronic blood cancers is currently difficult and requires multiple tests, some of which are invasive and painful,” said Green. “Now, most patients with a suspected blood cancer will be able to be given a diagnosis after a simple blood test.” Chronic blood cancers cause the over-production of red blood cells and platelets, which can lead to increased risk of blood clots that can be devastating when strokes or heart attacks occur. Although many patients have few or no symptoms, some cancers can become more aggressive with time and may even develop into acute leukemia.
In 2005 scientists identified the so-called JAK2 gene defect, which is associated with about 60 percent of blood cell disorders, and devised a test to identify it. But the new study, led by the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, scientists identified a second gene, CALR, which is defective in the other 40 percent of blood disorders, that can be identified through genetic testing.
There is now a sense of completeness with these disorders — the vast majority of our patients can now have a definitive genetic diagnosis made, said Peter Campbell from the Sanger Institute, who co-led the research. “In the next year or two, we will see these genetic technologies increasingly used in the diagnosis of all cancers, especially blood cancers.”

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