News / Vancouver

Vancouver researchers hope new blood test will replace conventional cancer screening methods

The hope is this blood test can detect cancers earlier than conventional screening methods

Treena McDonald, BC Generations Project bio-sample manager, processes blood samples as part of her work in the CANDACE project, which aims to create a new cancer screening process.

BC Cancer Agency

Treena McDonald, BC Generations Project bio-sample manager, processes blood samples as part of her work in the CANDACE project, which aims to create a new cancer screening process.

A team of Vancouver researchers is launching a pilot project that may make cancer screening more effective and less painful.

If successful, the BC Cancer Agency project would be a game changer because the test is meant to detect multiple cancers all at once, which could eliminate the need for different tests for specific cancers.

The project, called the Cancer DNA Screening Pilot Study (CANDACE), will use a blood test to detect cancer in 1,000 healthy volunteers who have previously agreed to be in the BC Generations Project. Those that test positive will have their results confirmed with conventional cancer screening methods.

The hope is that it will detect cancers earlier and more accurately than mammograms and colonoscopies.

“[We] already have cancer screening tests that work reasonably well but this would need to test better,” said Dr. Alan Nichols, a radiation oncologist at the BC Cancer Agency and head researcher of CANDACE.

The technology could also detect pancreatic and ovarian cancers, which don’t have routine screening methods yet, he said.

Earlier detection means more treatment options and better outcomes for cancer patients, according to a release from the BC Cancer Agency.

This technology, developed by Boreal Genomics at UBC, has already shown it is effective at detecting whether cancer DNA is present in patients who have been diagnosed, explained Nichols. It is currently used to confirm the effectiveness of chemotherapy and tumour removal surgeries.

If the yearlong CANDACE project is successful, there will be another study, with about 10,000 volunteers before healthcare professionals can access it, said Nichols.

The project is led by the BC Cancer Agency in collaboration with UBC, Boreal Genomics, the BC Generations Project and Pathway Genomics. 

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