How to catch cancer before it shows symptoms

Detection of cancer using a simple blood or urine sample, long before the disease shows signs of its existence. It is now possible to predict the future of oncology. This is not science fiction. The new revolution based on liquid biopsy makes this possible. Scientific research and the development of molecular diagnostics are opening a new stage in the ultra-early detection of certain oncological processes. And throughout Europe, the first monitors appeared in Spain, in particular, in the department of ultra-early prevention and diagnostics of Her Majesty’s Cancer Hospital CIOCC.

This department, integrated into the structure of HM Sanchinarro, began its research four years ago and opened its doors at the beginning of 2023, combining traditional screening tests such as mammography, CT or colonoscopy with the most modern molecular diagnostic tests and personalized tests. caring for every patient. His goal? gain as much time as possible from illness.

“We are always late. When we detect a disease, it is because the symptoms have already developed and in many cases there is nothing more to do. Now that we have the tools to detect tumors early, we can increase the chance of curing patients by 90%, compared to the 60% achieved with current diagnostic tools,” details Paloma Peinado, physician and coordinator. TSCIOCK.

The department includes oncologists specializing in ultra-early detection of cancer. However, this is a multidisciplinary work in which both molecular medicine specialists and doctors of other specialties participate.

The key to their work lies in liquid biopsy, a traditional biopsy technique in which, instead of removing a sample of tissue or tumor cells to analyze them and then identify the disease, HE accesses this information about the tumor through body fluids long before symptoms appear.

“We are always late to illness. Now molecular diagnostics will increase the chance of cure to 90%.”

Paloma’s hairstyle

Doctor and CIOCC Coordinator

This advance, Peinado said, makes the procedure less intrusive, allowing more people to agree to undergo follow-up tests and therefore saving more lives. “There’s no need for sedation or laxatives… it’s a simple blood test, but it allows us to go where traditional tests haven’t gone before.”

Fast delivery times

Another advantage of these new methods is the reduction in the time it takes to obtain results. “Liquid biopsy techniques at the molecular level can predict any radiological results by about a year,” explains the doctor. This will always depend on the disease and the patient, but on average it takes 20 days from the time the sample is taken to the results. Short period of time, which saves long waiting times compared to other procedures.

The Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM) estimates that one in three women and one in two men will have a tumor throughout their lifetime. “Since the likelihood of cancer in the community is very high, our main goal is to bring diagnosis to localized stages where we can be confident of curing the disease,” Peinado elaborates.

This “Oncology Center” has two types of ultra-early testing certified by the European Commission. The first is unitumoral, that is, it identifies a type of cancer. “We are currently able to prevent colorectal cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer or leukemia,” says Peinado, who does not rule out expanding the number of models to analyze other tumors in the future.

Multitumor test

The “revolution,” according to the oncologist, occurred with the multitumor test. “It is capable of detecting more than 70 types of tumors and their organs of origin.. There’s nothing like it in the entire healthcare industry,” says Peinado. “The fact that with a blood test we can detect almost any tumor at the earliest stages breaks all the patterns we have today.” It is intended for healthy people over 50 years of age, for women when identifying gynecological tumors (breast, ovarian, endometrial and cervical) or for patients with diabetes, since it allows identifying the most common panel of tumors of this group.

Blood samples from molecular diagnostic tests of patients


On the other hand, another task of this unit of CIOCC is to make accessible to people with some suspicious finds in classical tests there are other molecular tests that show whether the suspicion is unfounded. For example, for lung cancer, a test was developed for people whose CT scan shows a millimeter-sized single nodule in the lung that cannot determine whether it is malignant or benign.

“It’s a simple blood test, but it allows us to go where traditional tests haven’t gone before.”

Paloma’s hairstyle

Doctor and CIOCC Coordinator

Similarly, to detect prostate cancer in men who have prostate antigen levels between two and ten, a urine test is performed to determine whether a biopsy is appropriate based on the likelihood of high-grade prostate cancer. Also for people with a suspicious thyroid nodule to detect thyroid cancer. “We want to avoid unnecessary tests and biopsies. We strive to be accurate when making a diagnosis so that the patient is not left in doubt about the state of his health,” explains Peinado.

Individual follow-up plan

Another function they are responsible for in the department is to offer patients a unique and personalized follow-up plan for each disease and each person. “Today, screening programs are general, the same for everyone, but not all patients need the same thing,” the doctor complains. The CIOCC reviews your screening history, family history, genetic risk, and your personal needs. “Based on all this information, we perform a comprehensive analysis and create a specific follow-up plan for the patient.”

More than 400 patients have passed through their hands and undergo constant examination. People from all over Spain, because although the laboratory and equipment are located in Madrid, the device is available to users in other territories of the HM Hospitales health network, such as Barcelona, ​​La Coruña or Malaga.

Despite the hidden innovations in health care, the oncologist wants to make it clear that tests are not exclusive, and Peinado emphasizes that molecular diagnostic tests are not intended to, and cannot yet, replace traditional tests. “This is a tool that complements and improves them, refines the diagnosis and really achieves what traditional tests have not been able to achieve until now.”

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