Monday, January 13, 2014

U of L researchers develop simple cervical-cancer blood test that could be more accurate and cheaper than Pap smears

A simple blood test can tell whether a woman has cervical cancer and, if she does, "how far it's spread," writes Laura Ungar of The Courier-Journal, reporting on research findings from the University of Louisville.

The test "a heat profile from a patient’s blood called a plasma thermogram," Ungar reports. "Researchers hope it can be used along with Pap smears to detect cervical abnormalities, monitor disease progression and help doctors develop more personalized treatment plans by tracking how patients respond to specific medicines."

Researcher Nicholas Garbett "expects the test will be widely used eventually, but she doubts that it will ever replace the Pap smear, in which cells are scraped from the cervix and examined under a microscope," Ungar writes. “You could test more frequently,” Garbett said.

Her business associate, Dr. A. Bennett Jenson, "said the new test could be more accurate, since Pap tests have a 37 percent rate of false negatives or false positives," Ungar reports. "Jenson said the experimental plasma test now costs around $250, but if the volume is increased so many blood samples are handled at the same time, the price could drop to $15 or less. Pap smears cost $20 to $30."

Kentucky ranks eighth in cervical cancer, which is especially prevalent in the state's Appalachian region. There, the rate in 2010 was 9.7 per 100,000 women. The state's rate was 8.6 and the national rate was 7.4, Ungar notes.

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