Companies report progress on blood tests to detect cancer
A California company says its experimental blood test was able to detect many types of cancer at an early stage and gave very few false alarms in a study that included people with and without the disease.
Grail Inc. gave results in a news release Friday and will report them today at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago. They have not been published in a journal or reviewed by other scientists.
Many companies are trying to develop early detection “liquid biopsy” tests that capture bits of DNA cancer cells shed into blood.
On Thursday, Johns Hopkins University scientists launched a company called Thrive Earlier Detection Corp. to develop its CancerSEEK test, which yielded results similar to Grail’s more than a year ago.
Grail is closely watched because of the extraordinary investment it’s attracted – more than $1 billion from Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and other celebrities.
The new results included 2,300 people, 60% with cancer and 40% not known to have it. The test detected 55% of known cancers and gave false alarms for 1%. The detection rate was better – 76% – for a dozen cancers that collectively account for nearly two thirds of cancer deaths in the U.S., including lung, pancreatic, esophageal and ovarian.
The test found only about a third of cancers at the very earliest stage but as many as 84% that had started to spread but not widely.
It also suggested where the cancer may be in 94% of cases and was right about that 90% of the time.
“They still have a long way to go” to prove the test’s worth as a screening tool, but these results are encouraging, said Dr. Richard Schilsky, chief medical officer of the oncology society.