A simple blood test will allow to quickly detect hidden cancer

How to detect cancer in people without symptoms? Cancer researcher Bert Vogelstein has received numerous awards for his work on the genetic mutations that cause cancer. However, he always wanted to have these mutations can be detected in the early stages, when the cancer is easier to treat. And now a group of investors has invested $ 110 million into a dream Vogelstein and creates a company called Thrive Earlier Detection.

A simple blood test will allow to quickly detect hidden cancer

This is the latest addition to the expensive race for the first screening tests that can determine a range of cancer in a simple blood sampling. Grail rival company has collected more than $ 1 billion for the development of a universal test for detection of cancer.

How do you know that you have cancer, if there are no symptoms?

The concept of blood screening, called "liquid biopsy", owes much to the early efforts of Vogelstein and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University, Kenneth Kinzler. It relies on the fact that tumors release pierced by a mutation of DNA and specific proteins in the blood stream. Sometimes they can be found even among those who have no outward signs of cancer.

Together with the oncologist Nicolas Papadopoulos of Hopkins scientists describe a blood test last year, which was looking for 16 genes and proteins of eight and was able to detect several types of cancer, including stomach cancer, ovarian and liver - however, the blood already large people. Now, the same group is conducting a study for a major Geisinger Health System at 10,000 otherwise healthy women aged 65 to 75, in order to understand how often the analysis reveals a hidden cancer in the body. Women with a positive fit in the whole body scanner to look for tumors. Doctors from Geisinger said that thus was diagnosed with cancer and began to for treatment. But the results, they will be able to publish only a year later. It is too early to talk about something promising.

Screening tests are evaluated according to how much the real malignant tumors, they found and how many false alarms received. Vogelstein said that in order to test worked, he needs to find at least 20% of the real signs of cancer. Why can not detect the 70%? Because in reality the detection of at least one-fifth of latent cancers at a stage of a possible cure may do more than any new medicine, which usually extends life by a few weeks.

A more complicated problem is that the analysis of falsely indicates the presence of cancer. According to Vogelstein, any mass screening test must not produce more than 1 in 100 false positives. Because if the false positive rate is high, it is necessary to spend a lot of extra tests that heavily both emotionally and financially.

Thrive company, which is interested in the idea of ​​Vogelstein have to collect enough data to convince the insurers to pay for the tests, which will cost about 500 dollars. To do this, she would not have to prove that this analysis can save a life. Value even widely used screening tests like mammograms remains a matter of debate, even decades later. Instead, the Thrive, will probably try to sell the test, based on a variety of dimensions, for example, try to show that the cancer can be found faster and earlier than usual.

"If you can prove that you can detect cancer early, it is reasonable to extrapolate that you can save a life," says Vogelstein. "To actually prove it, we need hundreds of thousands or millions of patients. We do not want to wait that long. "

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