A new method of detecting cancer early using a few drops of blood, developed by a Hong Kong researcher, has been named as one of the top 10 breakthrough technologies this year by a globally respected magazine.
The liquid biopsy technology, cited by MIT Technology Review, was the result of over 20 years of research by Professor Dennis Lo Yuk-ming, associate dean of medicine at Chinese University.
Lo has recently made major breakthroughs in spotting cancers of the liver, and nose and throat, at the earliest stage using the new DNA sequencing technique, with success rates from 85 per cent to 96 per cent.
"We always knew the value of liquid biopsy to the medical world," Lo said. "But by being acknowledged by an external body, I hope it will escalate the development in the field."
He explained that the technique aims to spot mutated genes which lead to cancer by sequencing the entire genome and pinpointing abnormal cells.
In 1997, Lo was the first to develop a simple prenatal screening to detect Down's syndrome in the fetus, which is now widely used by pregnant mothers. Since the discovery, Lo has been expanding the application of the same technology to other areas.
His team is now midway through a nasopharynx study of 20,000 people, which found the technology has a 96 per cent chance of detecting upper-throat cancer at the earliest stage.
Among some 10,000 middle-aged Hong Kong men being screened, 17 were detected with stage-one cancer - later confirmed by other tests. All patients had undergone radiation treatment with a 90 per cent chance of being cured.
In another study of 1,000 people with hepatitis B, the tool was shown to have an 85 per cent chance of spotting liver cancer at a stage too early to be detected by an ultrasound scan. The finding was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences two weeks ago.
Lo said screenings cost around HK$200 for nose and throat and HK$8000 for liver and he hopes they could be used routinely within three years for the high-risk groups such as those with a family history.
MIT Technology Review, which is published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said commercial interest in liquid biopsies was already huge.
Very interesting, is it possible to know if detection of liver cancer is by blood test?biopsy is dangerous in case of nodular liver because if you pick up a malignant nodule you can spread malignant cells in the body
a note 8000usd is really a lot, any publication in detail about sensibility and limits of this test
the very bad of scanning for liver nodules, both ultrasound and ct scan have limits to detect liver cancer in very small nodules from 0.3mm to 1mm.contrast ct scan is much better than us, it d be useful to understand how better this blood test is vs ct contrast scan (i only see us in this report, they should compare to best contrast ct scan)
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