Scientists have identified more than 800 markers in the blood of cancer patients that could help lead to a single test for early detection.

A study by the UK Early Cancer Detection Consortium (ECDC) has been presented at the National Cancer Research Institute conference in Liverpool. It constitutes the first time cancer-specific blood markers “have been comprehensively reviewed and identified for further clinical development”, researchers said, having analysed 19,000 scientific papers.

Study author Ian Cree of the University of Warwick and University Hospital in Coventry said that “this is a new approach to early detection and the first time such a systematic review has been done”. He added that a single blood-based screening test “would be a game changer for early detection of cancer which could help make it a curable disease for many more patients”.

Prof Cree said “we believe that we’ve identified all the relevant biomarkers; the next step is working out which ones work the best for spotting cancers”. The biomarkers will now be reviewed and categorised before they are developed further in clinical laboratory studies.

Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, which funds the ECDC, said that although early-stage, this “innovative and promising new approach…shows how our increased understanding of cancers’ markers and new technologies are combining to offer new opportunities to detect cancer sooner”. She added that “our goal over the next 20 years is that three in four cancer patients will survive at least ten years after their diagnosis”.