A new type of blood test has shown the potential to become a game-changer in cancer diagnosis. According to the new data supporting the accuracy of multi-cancer early detection (MCED) blood testing, presented at the ESMO Congress 2022, has major implications for future cancer care provision, said Fabrice André, ESMO 2022 Scientific Co-Chair.
According to the scientists, the test was conducted among 6,662 individuals as part of a Pathfinder Study by GRAIL, a healthcare company working on improving cancer screening. Interestingly, the test detected multiple cancers among patients who were yet to show any symptoms.
“We need to involve all stakeholders in deciding new pathways of care. We need to agree on who will be tested and when and where tests will be carried out, and to anticipate the changes that will happen as a result of these tests, for example in the diagnosis and treatment of people with pancreatic and other cancers that are usually diagnosed at a much later stage,” André, Director of Research at Gustave Roussy Cancer Centre, Villejuif, France and newly elected future president of the Society for the years 2025-2026 said in a statement.
The experts revealed that the new MCED tests in development can detect a common cancer signal from over 50 different types of cancer and “predict where the signal has come from in the body.”
While conducting the PATHFINDER study, the scientists found that an MCED test detected a cancer signal in 1.4 percent of 6621 people aged 50 years and over who were not known to have cancer, and cancer was confirmed in 38 percent of those with a positive test. Of 6290 people who were cancer-free, 99.1 percent received a negative test result.
“Among those with a positive test result, the time to achieve diagnostic resolution (i.e. to find cancer or decide there was no evidence of malignancy requiring further investigation) was a median of 79 days,” the study revealed.
The outcomes of the study were reported at the ESMO Congress 2022. The scientists claimed that this is the first prospective investigation to show that an MCED test can detect cancer in patients with undiagnosed cancer, as previous studies used tests only in patients already known to have cancer.
“The results are an important first step for early cancer detection tests because they showed a good detection rate for people who had cancer and an excellent specificity rate for those who did not have cancer. In people with a positive test, it took less than two months to confirm the diagnosis if they had cancer and it took a bit longer if they did not have cancer primarily because physicians opted to perform imaging studies and then repeat them a second time several months later to investigate the possibility of a cancer diagnosis,” Deb Schrag, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA, senior study author, said in a statement.
The scientists are now conducting further studies are now underway including a major randomised clinical trial enrolling 140,000 asymptomatic people in England to investigate the clinical effectiveness of MCED testing on cancer outcomes.