An experimental blood test has the potential to sniff out a single rogue cancer cell lurking in the body.
The test is so promising that Johnson & Johnson has signed on to help develop it for public use.
Dr. Roy Herbst is a lung cancer expert at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
He's one of many around the country scheduled to begin clinical trials on a blood test predicted to detect even a single cancer cell still circulating in the body after treatment, cells that don't show up on typical follow-up imaging scans.
"You don't see a tumor on a CT scan until it's grown a certain size so this could be potentially more sensitive than imaging," he says.
If the test proves to be successful, doctors say it has the potential to replace painful biopsies used now to check for cancer cells that have spread.
It could also give doctors an early heads up on whether a treatment is working and a better understanding of what's causing tumors to grow.
"If we can do that, we can figure out what the Achilles heel is of that tumor so that we can personalize a therapy for any given patient," explains Dr. Herbst.
Although its potential is great the blood test remains years away from public use.
Clinical trials are expected to begin later this year.