A new cancer blood test has been found to detect eight common forms of the diseases, raising hope for the potential of a universal cancer blood test.

The CancerSEEK test measures circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) from 16 genes and eight protein biomarkers, then uses machine-based learning to analyse the data. The researchers applied the test to 1,005 patients with non-metastatic, clinically detected cancers of the ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, colorectum, lung, or breast. CancerSEEK tests were positive in a median of 70% of the eight cancer types.

The sensitivities ranged from 69% to 98% for the detection of five cancer types (ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, and esophagus) for which there are no screening tests available for average-risk individuals.

"The use of a combination of selected biomarkers for early detection has the potential to change the way we screen for cancer, and it is based on the same rationale for using combinations of drugs to treat cancers," said Nickolas Papadopoulos, senior author and professor of oncology and pathology, in a statement.

The researchers added that the results "lay the conceptual and practical foundation for a single, multi-analyte blood test for cancers of many types". However they concluded that to actually establish the utility of CancerSEEK, larger studies will be required.