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A Blood Test for Cancer: Saving Lives through Early Cancer Detection

Man getting a blood test for cancer.
A Blood Test for Cancer: Saving Lives through Early Cancer Detection Infographic Thumbnail

It goes without saying that the best way to treat cancer is to treat it early, and that’s only possible by detecting it early. Now there’s a blood test for that, and scientists and researchers have high hopes for this groundbreaking development. With just one or two vials of blood, a DNA blood test for cancer has the potential to save many, many lives through early detection.

For decades, the medical field has been trying to pin down and eradicate this dreaded disease. However, due to the ability of cancer cells to clone a slightly different version of itself, medications have a tough time eliminating all cancer cells. Moreover, cancer cells can interact with healthy cells, and induce healthy cells to grow blood vessels to feed tumors and allow the outflow of wastes products. Cancer cells can also insidiously suppress the immune system, which enables cancer to grow and spread undetected.

A Blood Test for Cancer: How Does It Work?

As tumors grow inside the body, they put cancer cells into the bloodstream. Similarly, when cancer cells inside the tumor die, their biomarkers make their way into the bloodstream.

A blood test for cancer can also be utilized to monitor the progress of patients undergoing treatment. Doctors can extract, isolate, and identify protein biomarkers present in the patient’s blood.With this information, physicians can adjust the treatment based on the patient’s treatment response. A viable blood test for cancer enables physicians to dispense precise and personalized care for each patient.

Cartoon of blood test for cancer.
Blood test for cancer as an early detection method is seen as the hope against cancer.

Liquid Biopsy and Businesses Thriving in the Biomedical Space

A blood test for cancer rests upon a biomedical technology called liquid biopsy. We are, therefore, looking at a future where multiple cancer types, including breast, colorectal, ovarian, and pancreatic cancer, can be detected through routine blood tests. For businesses and researchers, the accuracy and non-invasive nature of the technology are worth the pursuit. With recent developments, the goal of making a blood test for cancer a routine laboratory test may soon become a reality.

  • CancerSEEK, by Thrive, is a spin-off from Johns Hopkins pioneering research blood test for cancer. The Maryland-based company recently received a $110 million Series A funding. With strong support from the research and academic field, the company aims to develop a blood test for cancer that is highly-specific, comprehensive, and integrated with existing oncology care.
  • Grail’s approach to cancer detection is harnessing the power of modern data science. By gathering vast data sets and using high-intensity genetic sequencing, Grail aims to plot the extent of cancer’s complexity and create an efficient system to identify the faintest of cancer signals in the blood.
  • Guardant360 by Guardant Health is a commercially-available test kit using Guardant Health’s sequencing technology. The product was launched in 2014 and has been successful in assisting physicians in delivering personalized and precision care for cancer patients.
  • Qiagen is well-ahead of the game when it comes to liquid biopsy technology and oncology diagnostics. Currently, the Germany-headquartered company carries several blood test for cancer kits. Their product line includes a cancer test kit for prostate, ovarian, colon, and breast, to name a few.
  • Oncotype DX by Genomic Health uses genomic science to uncover each patient’s unique tumor profile. The company’s portfolio includes test kits for breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. With Genomic Health’s blood test for cancer, patients can optimize cancer treatments and avoid unnecessary tests and workups.
  • RainDance Technologies’ goal is to make complex genetics simple. Through an array of DNA sequencing technologies, RainDance Technologies is helping oncology researchers utilize the potentials and benefits of liquid biopsy.
  • Biocept utilizes liquid biopsy technology through a method that quickly isolates circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and cell-free circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA). Using next-generation sequencing, Biocept can provide results to the physician within days from receipt of blood samples. Physicians, then, can decide the appropriate treatments suited for the patient.
  • Carrier Status DNA Insight by Pathway Genomics provides Genetic Carrier Testing for parents. Individuals born with gene mutations inherited from their parents are at a higher risk of developing cancers. Pathway Genomics developed a test kit for would-be parents to screen for genetic diseases. Knowing the chances early on can help parents manage inheritable diseases.
  • Freenome uses the multi-omics platform in the early detection of cancer in patients. Combined with artificial intelligence and molecular biology, biomarkers are evaluated against billions of complex patterns. The focus of Freenome is currently on a study for the early detection of colorectal cancer.

Early Detection and High Cancer Survival Rates

Timely detection is critical for successful intervention and treatment of cancer. Early diagnosis of this dreaded disease increases the patient’s survival rate by as much as three times. Also, the cost of treatment is considerably less, and the quality of life of patients is significantly better. As in the case of breast and ovarian cancer patients – if detected in its earlier stage, 90% of the patient live longer than five years. However, the survival rate drops to 5% when the illness is discovered at an advanced stage.

Regrettably, the discovery of cancer coincides with the occurrence of apparent symptoms. More often, symptoms become evident once the disease has already progressed in its advanced stages. With blood test for cancer, traces of DNA of cancer cells can be isolated and identified against cancer biomarkers, months, or even years before symptoms manifest. Both the scientific community and biotechnology businesses are optimistic about the potential of the blood test for cancers in improving the lives of millions of people. With the possibilities proffered by DNA blood test for cancer, there are reasons to remain hopeful.

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