While a cancer screening test requires an individual appointment with a doctor, this simple blood test can detect 50 different types of cancer and detect them at a higher than average rate.
Aimed at people over the age of 50, the ease and thoroughness of the testing process can help detect difficult-to-diagnose cancers in their early stages, such as some blood, ovarian, head and neck, and pancreatic cancers.
Developed by an American biotech company called Grail, the trials of about 3,000 people were looking for tiny leaks of altered DNA that leak from tumors into the bloodstream. It uses machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence, to look for changes in the “methylation” of DNA.
DNA methylation is a record of the changes, often through damage, that DNA undergoes throughout its life, and is theorized as a possible cancer detector, but also as the truest marker of biological aging.
Previous versions of this test detected cancers in its early stages on average by 18%, but more advanced stages by 93%. Some cancers, like pancreatic cancer, were found with 63% accuracy even at stage 1.
Crucially, the most successful detection rates were found in non-solid tumors, that is, tumors for which there are no detection methods, such as cancers of the liver, pancreas, and esophagus. In addition, the false positive rate was less than 1%, and the test was able to detect where in the body the cancer was found at a rate of 90%.
Another trial of the Grail test conducted by the UK’s NHS recently ended, with results for 140,000 people expected in 2023.
In a statement, NHS cancer chief Peter Johnson said: “This latest study provides further evidence that blood tests like this could help the NHS meet its ambitious goal of finding three-quarters of cancers at one stage. early, when they have the greatest chance of being cured. “
“The data is encouraging and we are working with Grail on studies to see how this trial will work in clinics across the NHS, starting very soon.”
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