A new groundbreaking blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancers with only a simple blood sample may soon become widely available and could change the way cancer detection and diagnosis works, saving lives in the meantime.
The Galleri blood test, developed by California-based biotechnology company GRAIL, is expected to be able to detect 50 different types of cancers using two tubes of the patient's blood. Once the blood is sent to a laboratory, the patient can receive the results within 10 days.
The test is slated to become available around the United States at multiple locations by the end of the year, while in the United Kingdom the largest trial of the test started in September and is still ongoing with 140,000 participants.
The simple blood test searches for the earliest signs of cancer, particularly those that are hard to detect early such as lung, pancreas or stomach cancers.
The test can detect subtle changes caused by cancer as it finds chemical changes in fragments of genetic code that leak from tumors into the bloodstream, when there may be no apparent symptoms yet.
The signal does not mean that the patient definitely has cancer, but rather might have cancer. Follow-up tests are needed to make sure.
"Today, many cancers are found too late, leading to poor outcomes," said Mayo Clinic Oncologist Dr. Minetta Liu. "The ability to detect cancer early is critical to successful treatment," she told the clinic's News Network.
Cancer is a leading cause of death around the world. The current recommended cancer screening tests – at least in the U.S. – only check for five types of cancer and can only screen for one of them at a single time.
The Mayo Clinic, which conducted the test's trial in the U.S., said the test was effective at showing the ability to detect more than 50 types of cancers – over 45 of which have no recommended screening tests for early detection – with a false-positive rate of less than 1%.
"(It) is a ground-breaking advancement and could have a tremendous human and economic benefit," said Dr. Josh Ofman chief medical officer and head of external affairs at GRAIL.
"If cancers can be detected early, we can dramatically improve patient outcomes," Dr. Julia Feygin, senior medical science liaison at GRAIL, told the CBS owned-and-operated WCCO, as quoted by Daily Mail.
Dr. Greg Plotnikoff, a Minneapolis-based medical director, told WCCO that the test was something far beyond the capabilities that the medical world possessed at the moment.
"This is a game-changer," he said. "If we can catch things earlier, we have a chance then to make a significant difference."
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