A simple blood test will soon reveal hidden cancer.

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

This is the latest addition to expensiverace for the first screening tests that can determine the range of cancers by simple blood sampling. Competing company Grail has collected more than $ 1 billion to develop a universal cancer test.

How to find out if you have cancer if there are no symptoms?

The concept of blood screening, called “liquidbiopsy, ”largely due to the early efforts of Vogelstein and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins University Kenneth Kinzler. It relies on the fact that the tumors release the mutated DNA and the characteristic proteins into the bloodstream. Sometimes they can be detected even by those who have no outward signs of cancer.

Together with oncologist Nicholas Papadopoulos scientistsHopkins last year described a blood test that looked for 16 genes and eight proteins and was able to detect several types of cancer, including stomach, ovarian and liver cancer - however, there are already large people in the blood. Now, the same group is conducting research on a large Geisinger health care system on 10,000 perfectly healthy women aged 65 to 75, in order to understand how often the analysis reveals hidden cancer in the body. Women with a positive result are placed in a full-body scanner to look for tumors.

Doctors from Geisinger say they discovered cancer in this way and began treatment. But they will be able to publish the results only in a year. It is too early to talk about something promising.

Screening tests are judged by how manythey found real malignant tumors and how many false positives they received. Vogelstein says that in order for the test to work, he needs to find at least 20% of the real cancer signs. Why can not detect 70%? Because in reality, detecting at least one-fifth of a hidden cancer at the stage of a possible cure can do more than any new medicine, which usually extends life for several weeks.

A more difficult problem is thatanalysis falsely indicates the presence of cancer. According to Vogelstein, any mass screening test should produce no more than 1 per 100 false positives. Because if the percentage of false positives is high, many additional tests will have to be carried out, which is hard both emotionally and financially.

Thrive, which is interested in the ideaVogelshteyn, will have to collect enough data to convince insurers to pay for tests that will cost about $ 500. For this, she will not have to prove that this analysis can save lives. The value of even widely used screening tests like mammograms remains a matter of debate even decades later. Instead, Thrive will probably try to sell a test based on different dimensions, for example, try to show that cancer can be found faster and earlier than usual.

"If you can prove that you canto detect cancer earlier, it would be wise to extrapolate that you can save a life, ”says Vogelstein. “To actually prove this, we need hundreds of thousands or millions of patients. We don't want to wait that long. ”

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