Five-minute cancer test arrives

Local | Staff reporter 20 Dec 2019

Researchers at City University have developed a screening technology that can assess a person's cancer risk with a blood test.

It is the fastest test globally - being three to six months faster than conventional visual tests.

With an accuracy rate of over 90 percent, the test can detect a tumor of just 0.1 millimeter. And it can ferret out cancer cells with as little as four milliliters of blood in no more than five minutes.

The tests, which will cost HK$10,000 to HK$15,000 each, could come to market in mid-2020.

The university team is now in discussions with medical institutions on possible collaborations.

The present conventional means for a cancer diagnosis include medical imaging and tissue biopsy, which need at least four weeks. Another method is testing blood for protein markers produced by a tumor.

The new technology can accurately identify tumor cells circulating in the blood.

It raises the accuracy of blood tests significantly and detects tumors in the early stages of a variety of cancers, except for leukemia, brain cancer and hemangioma.

Edwin Yu Wai-kin, a senior research associate in the department of biomedical sciences, said although cancer markers can be tracked through blood tests the team set out to examine the existence of cancer cells in the blood directly.

"It's quite difficult to do so," he said. "Our breakthrough research achievement is to examine circulating tumor cells within the shortest time."

Henry Zou Heng, another senior research associate, said the technology also gauges the effectiveness of drugs.

"It can be used to monitor the status of cancer patients so we know how they are responding to their current medical treatment and whether they should receive new treatments," he said.

The team said that the standard way to determine whether immunotherapy is an appropriate treatment for cancer patients is to conduct a tissue biopsy.

But the new technology can determine whether or not a patient needs it simply by analyzing proteins on the surface of cancer cells.

The test is also more accurate than tissue examinations.

Additionally, the test can be used to check whether cancer patients have drug-resistance problems - a vital advance in helping doctors decide whether new medications or treatments are required.

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