A new test on a tiny amount of blood can determine if patients are suffering from cancer and identify the type of tumor with a probability of nearly 90 percent, a research team said.

The method only requires simple treatment and measuring processes, easing the physical burden on patients, according to the scientists from the Chiba Cancer Center Research Institute (CCCRI) and other organizations.

The technique diagnoses the precise type of tumor by measuring and comparing levels of 17 kinds of trace elements in the blood, such as sodium, iron and zinc. The levels differ depending on the kind of carcinoma the patients are suffering from.

“We will commercialize the technique after conducting research on more patients through cancer screening and on other occasions and then carrying out clinical trials,” said Hiroki Nagase, director of the CCCRI.

The team also included scientists from the Kanagawa Cancer Center Research Institute and photocatalyst deodorizing equipment maker Renatech Co. based in Isehara, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Based on a machine that produces semiconductors, they created equipment that can measure levels of the trace elements in blood.

When the team examined the sera of 960 patients with pancreatic, prostate, colorectal, breast and uterine cancers as well as 550 healthy individuals, the device identified the type of tumor with a probability of nearly 90 percent, they said.

The scientists are also conducting research on gastric, pulmonary, ovarian and other cancers, and they said the method will eventually be able to detect eight to 10 kinds of carcinoma.

Haruo Mikami, a senior CCCRI official, said the new technique’s accuracy is higher than that of existing tumor marker detection methods for prostate and colorectal cancers, which can find 25 to 50 percent of tumors.

No definitive tumor markers have been established to identify uterine, breast and pancreatic cancers. The team’s method is expected to help detect those difficult-to-find tumors, Mikami said.

The researchers said they intend to obtain approval from the government to release the trace element measuring equipment as a medical device by spring 2019.

They used a subsidy from the economy ministry to develop the test method.