By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A promising new way to detect and treat cancer moves a step closer to being available. The test’s inventors and Johnson & Johnson announced Monday they’re joining forces to bring it to the market.

It could be as simple as a blood test instead of biopsy’s or scans to spot cancer cells. Doctors say this revolutionary new blood test could also potentially transform how cancer is treated.

It’s being called a “liquid biopsy.” An experimental blood test that can spot random cancer cells lurking around in the body. Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital invented the test, which in preliminary trials was able to detect a single cancer cell among a billion healthy ones.

“There are some things that make these tumor cells different. There are certain proteins on the surface that enables us to fish them out, said Dr. Daniel Haber, a Researcher at Massachusetts General Cancer Center.

Doctors say the experimental blood test is not only less painful than traditional biopsies, but it may be a much simpler and faster way to determine whether a treatment is working.

The test uses a micro-chip that’s covered in thousands of tiny posts. When the chip comes in contact with a blood sample, the healthy cells bounce of the posts, but the cancer cells stick, so researchers can study them.

Doctors hope the test may one day be able to offer a much simpler way to screen for cancer than mammograms and colonoscopies.

“To find early cancers before they invade into the blood and spread to distant sites and that of course would be our dream,” said Dr. Haber.

Four of the nation’s top cancer centers plan to start using the test this year. Sloan Kettering in New York being the closest to us. Doctors think it will take at least another three to five years before this blood test is widely available.

The research is being paid for with money raised in the Stand Up To Cancer telethon.

Reported By: Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3

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