Results of new blood test cause for optimism for early detection

There are so many types of cancer out there, it’s easy for them to pass under the radar.

For a disease where early detection is critical, getting the right test is extremely important. Especially for diseases like pancreatic or ovarian cancer, not being able to detect it until it’s in advanced stages is why it is so difficult to survive it. On top of this, many cancer tests are invasive. Between pap smears, colonoscopies and rectal exams, just trying to find the cancer can be unpleasant.

For these reasons, a new blood test in development should have cancer patients, and the general public, feeling optimistic. It is called the Galleri test, and it is designed to detect signs of cancer in the bloodstream. According to an article by Cleveland Clinic, the test looks for DNA strands shed by cancer cells when they die.

It is able to detect up to 50 types of cancer, although manufacturer GRAIL says not all cancers are found by the test. Cancers detected include cervical, pancreatic, liver and stomach cancer. Some of these diseases have a survival rate of 5%, and aren’t caught until they are in later stages.

While it has yet to be approved in the US or UK, clinical test results are promising. A recent Guardian article outlined a study in which over 6,600 adults over the age of 50 were offered the test. While most of the participants received negative results, 92 of them were flagged for a potential cancer. 38% of these people were found to have the disease after further testing. Other studies add that the test may have a lower false-positive rate than traditional screening techniques.

While the test is not yet ready to be released to the general population, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US and the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK are running trials. The NHS in particular is now looking to expand trials to a much larger population.

On this side of the border, a company from Richmond Hill, Ontario called StageZero Life Sciences has developed its own ARISTOTLE cancer screening blood tests. It’s based on the mRNA technology you find in many COVID-19 vaccines. They are available at some Toronto area clinics, but have not been cleared for use by the FDA. The company stresses that the tests must be ordered from them and used in consultation with a healthcare provider.

Both companies are directly affected by the Biden Administration’s new Cancer Moonshot Initiative. The National Cancer Institute has launched a national trial for cancer blood tests involving some 225,000 people, of which the Galleri test is a part of. 

With these developments, the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network is hopeful that we will see these types of tests will become common in doctors’ offices across the country. Thanks to advances in DNA and mRNA technology, we believe that the time has come for these tests to make their debut in the fight against cancer.