A Blood Test Which Can Spot More Than 50 Types Of Cancer

Source: CBS News

The sooner most cancers are discovered, the better the odds they can be successfully treated.

“My dad, he was a healthy guy — he didn’t have any known risk factors for cancer,” says Dr. Julia Feygin. She lost her 40-year-old father to pancreatic cancer when she was 13. Diagnosed at stage three, he lived only nine more months.

Dr. Feygin is now part of a team at a Menlo Park, California-based company called GRAIL that has introduced a blood test called Galleri, which can catch hard-to-detect, aggressive and often deadly cancers such as pancreatic, ovarian and esophageal. How? Galleri can track the DNA a cancer cell sheds.

Dr. Feygin explains that our blood contains a DNA signature. “We can find and sequence these tiny bits of tumor-derived DNA in the blood and, based on the patterns we see, we can reveal if there is a signal for cancer present. We can predict with very high accuracy where in the body this cancer signal is coming from.”

Two tubes of blood are drawn and sent to GRAIL’s lab for analysis. The results are sent back to the health care provider in 10 business days.

There are some caveats on who can get the test. “It’s intended to be used for people at an elevated risk for cancer. This can be something as simple as age,” Dr. Feygin says.

“This is a game-changer,” says Dr. Greg Plotnikoff, whose age allowed him to choose to use Galleri to screen himself. He has prescribed the test for patients and family members with risk factors, saying cancers caught early are in more treatable stages. “If we can catch things earlier, we have a chance then to make a significant difference.”

According to The American Cancer Society, 71% of cancer deaths come from types of cancer that have no recommended screening.

Right now, the test is by prescription-only — insurance doesn’t cover it. The current out-of-pocket cost is cost of $949. GRAIL has not received full approval from the Food And Drug Administration (FDA), but the team is working on it.

Dr. Feygin says they hope to change outcomes for families like hers in the future. “It really presents an unprecedented opportunity to bend the cancer mortality curve and really save so many lives,” she says.

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