Cancer Institute Develops Blood Screen for 20 Types of Cancer

Scientific researchers have revealed, this week, a new kind of blood test is in development that could screen for multiple types of cancer.  With a remarkably high degree of accuracy, the simple blood screen is being presented this week at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress.  

Developed by GRAIL, Inc, the blood test uses next-generation sequencing technology to seek out DNA for tiny chemical tags (also known as methylation) that can influence whether or not a gene activates.  When the proposed blood test was applied to upwards of 3,600 blood samples, it successfully detected cancer signals in samples from those patients who had already been diagnosed.  Perhaps more importantly, the test was also able to identify where the cancer originated. 

GRAIL Vice President of Clinical Development, Anne-Renee Hartman, MD, notes, “Most cancers go undetected until too late, and cancer remains the second leading cause of death worldwide.  To address this challenge, we embarked, on one of the most ambitious clinical study programs in genomic medicine in support of a novel multi-cancer approach to early cancer detection.”

Now, it is also important to note the test correctly identified stage-one cancer in 32 percent of patients.  However, the test was 76 percent successful among those with stage-two cancer.  As might be expected, breast, colorectal, and lung cancers were among the most effectively detected in these blood samples.  Of course, other cancers like gastric, lymphoid, leukemia, multiple myeloma, pancreatic, ovarian, and esophageal were also included in this list. In all, 3,583 blood samples were connected:  1,530 were identified to have cancer with the remaining 2,053 were found without cancer. 

While these numbers are impressive on their own, the most important figure is likely its accuracy:  the test demonstrated a remarkably low misdiagnosis rate of only 0.6 percent. Again, in only 0.6 percent of cases did the test misdiagnose healthy blood samples as cancerous.   These trials have been conducted at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.