Got your attention with that last bit didn’t I?
But what about the formula terms?
LB = Liquid Biopsy = no snipping bits off or out, just a simple blood sample.
EA = Epigenetic Alterations = things Cancer does to the Epigenome which is the molecular sheath around the DNA double helix.
Why does this equal Your life saved from Cancer?
What is the message the medical community drums into you again and again? Get tested because early detection increases your chances of survival immensely.
But what does getting tested entail? Biopsies. Tissue samples. Inspected by human beings with a success rate that varies widely depending on . . . the tissue sampling technique used. In this National Center for Biotechnology Information PubMed article “A comparison of fine-needle aspiration, core biopsy, and surgical biopsy in the diagnosis of extremity soft tissue masses” the accuracy runs from over 70% down to 33%.
Different biopsy techniques are needed for collecting tissue samples from various places within, or upon, the body. And, for the most part, those samples are analysed by humans using their eyes and brains. And humans are prone to making mistakes. And from the results in the study above it looks like the smaller the sample the lower the accuracy.
But the technique I refer to in the title works differently . . . far differently.
As explained in this Science Daily article “A new approach to detecting cancer earlier from blood tests” the analysis is done by machines. And they aren’t looking for cancer cells directly; they are looking for
epigenetic alterations in DNA fragments floating in the plasma of the blood sample.
By profiling epigenetic alterations as ‘classifiers’, machine learning can learn to detect signs of many many cancers far before any signs ever show up.
Of course this is still ‘in the lab’ and it might be a few years before it makes it out to testing labs everywhere. But this lab tool has successfully identified
cancer from hundreds of samples and can tell which kind of cancer and where it’s likely occurring within the body. From a blood test.
If you’re in your 30s now you’ve got a couple of decades before the scary 50s when many cancers take people out. And by then novel techniques like this will bring extremely early and economical detection into reality. And that cancer that took out older relatives in your family might not do the same to you and yours.