A technology that uses infrared beams of light to enable early detection of cancer from blood samples is being developed by researchers from Soroka University Medical Center and Ben-Gurion University.

The recent conclusion of clinical trials showed the method has a 90 percent accuracy rate in identifying cancer in patients.

Leading the research team is Prof. Joseph Kapelushnik, director of the Pediatric Hemato-Oncology at Soroka University Medical Center. The benefit of the new test, Kapelushnik explained, is that it detects cancer before it has a chance to spread through the body.

“Usually a person only goes to the doctor when they begin to feel bad,” Kapelushnik told The Times of Israel. “We want a person to be able to go to the doctor while they are still feeling fine and test to see if they have cancer. Early detection means the chances of survival are much higher, the treatment is much cheaper, and it has a greater chance to work.”

Curing cancer remains one of the greatest medical challenges and early detection of the disease is critical in preventing it from spreading. In later stages the disease can require long, problematic, and sometimes ineffective treatments, whereas if it’s caught early the chances of recovery are much higher.

‘Early detection means the chances of survival are much higher, the treatment is much cheaper, and it has a greater chance to work.’

There are already many types of screening tests for cancer ranging from blood tests and tissue samples to mammograms and colonoscopies. However, the Soroka team hopes that the new light beam test will enable simple, quick, and cheap detection at very early instances of the disease.

The new spectroscopic test involves beaming rays of infrared light at a small blood sample from the subject and then measuring how the blood scatters the light to determine its contents. So far the method has proved successful at detecting the presence of cancer but researchers hope that in the future they can develop its sensitivity sufficiently to  identify even which kind of cancer is found. First priority will be to detect lung and ovarian cancers, then the scope will broaden to include as many other forms as is possible.

The team now intends to extend the trial to 10,000 subjects, including many healthy-seeming people who are unaware that they are succumbing to cancer. If all goes well, the test could be available to the public in about three years.