Doctors say it opens the possibility of treatment for cancers that are often hard or impossible to cure because they can not be detected early enough, saving more lives, and slashing medical costs.
"This is potentially the holy grail of cancer research, to find cancers that are now hard to cure at an earlier stage when they are easier to cure", says Dr. Eric Klein of Cleveland Clinic's Taussig Cancer Institute.
Scientists in the U.S. have found a simple test can pick up early signs of cancers including breast, ovarian, bowel and lung cancer.
It can now detect ovarian, pancreatic, liver, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, colorectal, esophageal, lung, head and neck, and breast cancers, but it works best for ovarian and pancreatic forms of the disease.
At the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists in Chicago, experts further discussed the concept and how it could help doctors in the future.
The test, known as a liquid biopsy, is used to screen for DNA from cancer cells and was able to detect 10 different cancers with good accuracy.
'Now, as the NHS marks its 70th anniversary, we stand on the cusp of a new era of personalised medicine that will dramatically transform care for cancer and for inherited and rare diseases.
However, most of the patients find out they have cancer when they start showing signs. Test results can be expected in about two weeks from when a patient gave a blood sample, The Independent reported. Head and neck cancer was detected in 56% of patients.
The test uses whole genome sequencing.
However, it was less effective at detecting stomach, uterine and early-stage prostate cancer, the authors said.
"The vast majority of medical practice is based upon chief complaint", meaning a patient's first report that's something's wrong, Takabe said, adding, "The excitement about these liquid biopsies is, can we screen people who have absolutely no symptoms, no complaints" but have something in their blood that could hint at cancer?
They'd also need more test subjects, as the sample sizes were on the small side for a study of this type.
The goal is to develop a blood test, such as this one, that can accurately identify cancers in their earliest stages.
Researchers said their results showed promise in the approach of blood screenings for cancer, but noted further "clinical development" was needed.