Kun Zhang
Professor Kun Zhang, chair of the UC San Diego Department of Bioengineering. Photo courtesy of the university

A research team that includes the chair of UC San Diego‘s Department of Bioengineering says it has developed a blood test that can detect certain forms of cancer in asymptomatic patients up to four years earlier than conventional methods, the university announced Tuesday.

PanSeer detects stomach, esophageal, colorectal, lung and liver cancer, according to UCSD, which said the test detected cancer in 91% of samples collected from then-asymptomatic patients who were diagnosed with cancer one to four years later.

The test is unlikely to predict who will develop cancer, but rather would identify whether someone already has cancerous growths, but is asymptomatic, according to UCSD.

The team says “further large-scale longitudinal studies” are needed to confirm PanSeer’s potential as an early detection test.

“The ultimate goal would be performing blood tests like this routinely during annual health checkups,” said Kun Zhang, UCSD Bioengineering Department chair. “But the immediate focus is to test people at higher risk, based on family history, age or other known risk factors.”

UCSD says the team used blood samples collected as part of a 10-year longitudinal study launched in 2007 by Fudan University in China.

In addition to Zhang, the team also includes researchers from Fudan University and from San Diego- and Shanghai-based Singlera Genomics, a startup co-founded by Zhang.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.