Scientists have been working on a new blood test that could possibly find eight different types of cancer. The new test would be able to find the cancer earlier than the usual tests. By finding the disease earlier, doctors think they could treat it more successfully.
The new test is called CancerSEEK. CancerSEEK is being worked on by scientists from Thrive Earlier Detection, a company founded by three researchers from Johns Hopkins University. The company has raised over $110 million from investors who want to see the new test available for purchase as soon as possible. The test is referred to as a liquid biopsy. It works by looking through blood plasma for proteins and mutated genes that are associated with cancer. These proteins and genes can often be found early on in a tumor’s growth.
The first tests on CancerSEEK have been very encouraging, but the researchers still think that the test can be improved. A 2018 study of 1000 patients with early stage cancer used CancerSEEK to test its effectiveness. The test got the correct result seventy percent of the time. It was also particularly good at finding cancer of the liver and ovaries; CancerSEEK had a ninety eight percent success rate on those kinds of cancer. It had the hardest time finding early stage breast cancer, only getting thirty three percent correct.
A simple and easy to use blood test has been the most desired invention in cancer research over the past few years. Some doctors from the biotechnology development industry have even called it the “holy grail invention.” Unfortunately, even though there have been good early signs, the science isn’t fully developed yet. There have been more than one failures in this area in the recent past. One example is the test called Theranos, which got a lot of media attention and investment before it was ultimately unsuccessful. Theranos was developed by a woman named Elizabeth Holmes, and it is unfortunately not the only one of these tests to get investment and still come up short in testing.
Thrive Earlier Detection is one of many different companies trying to have their blood test be the first one available to doctors and hospitals on a wide scale. One such company, a biotech startup named Grail, is headed by a former Google executive. Grail’s test correctly identified eighty seven percent of tumors in its most recent study, slightly more than CancerSEEK’s best results. The continuing increase in success shows how the technology in this area of cancer study is developing quickly.
Right now, the next step for Thrive in developing CancerSEEK is more testing and more studies. The company has already planned its next large scale study. They will be partnering with healthcare provider Geisinger to do a clinical trial on more than 10,000 healthy people. Thrive is hopeful that they can continue on this upward path and help doctors and patients be more effective in finding and treating early stage cancers.