A new blood test called Galleri has been developed that can detect more than 50 different types of cancer in a single blood draw. Even more exciting is that for 45 of these cancers previously there was no single test that could detect them.
The discovery started back in 2014 when scientists at Illumina were studying DNA in pregnant people for chromosome abnormalities. However, in the blood of 10 of the participants they found something unexpected. Instead of finding abnormalities in chromosomes they found DNA abnormalities. This didn’t make sense to the researchers, however they suspected that cancer may have been involved. After further investigation it was discovered that all 10 participants had cancer, 9 of which had no symptoms.
Off the back of this discovery Illumina created a new company in 2016 called Grail. Their aim was to create a blood test which combined this new research with data collected from previous studies. The result was the Galleri blood test. This test can detect early stages of cancer before a person has any symptoms at all. So far over 134,000 people have been involved in clinical trials. One trial of 6,600 performed by the Mayo clinic found a very low false positive rate of less than 1%.
Chief medical officer Dr Joshua Ofman from Grail said; “When a cancer signal is detected in these trials, the test also pinpoints where the cancer is located in the body with high accuracy.” Ofman went on to say that that there is the potential to reduce late-stage cancer diagnoses by two thirds.
Currently, 71% of cancer deaths are from cancers not commonly screened for, so the new test could have a positive impact on cancer survival rate. The test is expected to be available at several hospitals and Mayo clinics by the end of this year. GPs will be able to refer patients for the test which will initially cost $950 (USD).