The Galleri test also forecasts the location of the cancer, enabling medical professionals to expedite the subsequent investigation required to find and confirm a cancer.
Doctors are telling health providers to prepare for a new era of cancer screening after a study revealed that a straightforward blood test could detect various cancers in patients before they manifest visible symptoms.
More than 6,600 adults aged 50 and older were given the blood test as part of a study by Pathfinder, which found dozens of new disease cases. Nearly three-quarters of cancers were kinds that were not regularly checked for, and many malignancies were in the early stages.
For the first time, the Galleri test’s findings, which screens for cancer DNA in the blood, have been communicated to patients and their doctors to help with any necessary cancer research and treatment.
NHS England has called the Galleri test a possible “gamechanger,” and it plans to release the findings of a significant trial involving 165,000 patients next year. Although the technology is still under development, doctors hope the test may save lives by detecting cancer early enough for surgery and treatment to be more effective.
“I think what’s exciting about this new paradigm and concept is that many of these were cancers for which we do not have any standard screening,” Doctor Deb Schrag, a senior researcher on the study at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, told the European Society for Medical Oncology meeting in Paris earlier this week, according to The Guardian.
In the Pathfinder study, 6,621 adults aged 50 and over were offered the Galleri blood test. For 6,529 volunteers, the test was negative, but it flagged a potential cancer in 92.
Further tests confirmed solid tumours or blood cancer in 35 people, or 1.4% of the study group. The test spotted two cancers in a woman who had breast and endometrial tumours.
In addition to detecting sickness, the test also forecasts the location of the cancer, enabling medical professionals to expedite the subsequent investigation required to find and confirm a cancer.
“The signal of origin was very helpful in directing the type of work-up,” said Schrag. “When the blood test was positive, it typically took under three months to get the work-ups completed.”
The test discovered ovarian and pancreatic cancers, which are often found at a late stage and have a bad prognosis, in addition to 19 solid tumours in tissues like the breast, liver, lung, and colon.
Blood cancers made up the remaining cases. In total, 36 tumours were found, of which 14 were in the early stages and 26 were malignancies that were not regularly checked for.
Further research revealed that 99.1% of cancer-free individuals had negative blood test results, indicating that only a small minority of healthy individuals mistakenly had a positive result. A test result of positive for cancer was found in about 38% of individuals who had it.
Until the test is ready for population-wide screening, according to Schrag, people should continue receiving their routine cancer screenings.
“But this still suggests a glimpse of what the future may hold with a really very different approach to cancer screening,” she said.
Fabrice André, the director of research at Gustave Roussy cancer centre in Villejuif, France, said that “within the next five years, we will need more doctors, surgeons and nurses, together with more diagnostic and treatment infrastructure, to care for the rising number of people who will be identified by multi-cancer early detection tests.”
“Blood tests for multiple types of cancer used to belong in the realm of science fiction, but now they are an area of cancer research that is showing promise for patients,” said Naser Turabi, the director of evidence and implementation at Cancer Research UK.