Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, USA have used a DNA-sequencing blood test to identify some of the earliest signs of kidney cancer, for which a reliable screening test is not yet available.
The researchers analysed sequences of DNA and tagged certain pieces of genetic code with molecules that alter their function. In early studies, the test was nearly 100% accurate at identifying people with kidney cancer based on analysis of the DNA in their blood samples.
Other DNA-based liquid (blood) biopsies look for specific genetic mutations that are linked to different cancers. This test hunts for DNA that is released by cancer cells into the bloodstream and marked with abnormal molecules compared to DNA from healthy cells, which can be used as clearer evidence of the disease.
Early cancers typically do not cause symptoms, with many being discovered incidentally during scans for other medical reasons. Also, there is currently no early screening test for kidney cancer for the general population, and about one third of cancers are diagnosed after they have grown and spread beyond the kidney.
In the first instance, this new diagnostic test may be used to screen people with a family history of kidney cancer or people who have previously had kidney cancer. More research is needed before the test can be used as a mainstream screening test for kidney cancer.