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New blood test can detect more than 50 types of cancer, researchers say

The test, called Galleri, could help doctors uncover cancer early on.

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Researchers say a new blood test, called Galleri, is effective at finding over 50 cancers that often go undetected in their early stages. The test offers a promising look into the future, when new types of multi-cancer screenings could catch more cancers early enough to save lives.

In the US, there are several cancer screening tests available, but the National Cancer Institute considers tests for only four cancers effective (colorectal, lung, breast and cervical). The multi-cancer Galleri test, which the Mayo Clinic has called "groundbreaking," is meant to complement existing cancer-screening tests, according to Galleri's maker, Grail.

The test is commercially available in the US (all states except New York) and can be ordered by health care professionals for patients age 50 and older, or those who are at risk for cancer. But it'll likely be a few years before Galleri is used as a go-to diagnostic tool.

The test hasn't been OK'd by the Food and Drug Administration, with Grail planning to seek full approval in 2023, according to biopharmaceutical news site Fierce Biotech. And more studies of the test are scheduled. England's National Health Service is set to launch a pilot study of Galleri this fall, the Guardian reported, with results expected in 2023.

Grail, which presented the first results of its self-funded research on Galleri at the 2021 American Society of Clinical Oncology, had its data on a validation study of the multi-cancer test published Thursday in the Annals of Oncology, a peer-reviewed journal of the European Society for Medical Oncology. According to the new research, the blood test correctly detected when cancer was present in 51.5% of cases and has a very low false positive rate. In cases when cancer was detected, the test could identify, 88.7% of the time, where it was in the body.

Galleri was developed using a machine learning algorithm that recognizes patterns, the Guardian reported. According to Grail, the test works by looking for signals in the blood that may be associated with cancer -- specifically, DNA shed by tumors, which can show abnormal patterns of chemical change. On Grail's website, there's a comprehensive list of cancers that Galleri might detect. The company's backers include tech luminaries Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates.

In 2019 cancer was the second-leading cause of death in the US, according to the CDC, and the authors of the latest Galleri study predict it will soon be the leading cause of death globally. The new blood test can be used to detect cancers in the ovaries, pancreas, esophagus, stomach, head and neck, and other body parts that account for approximately two-thirds of cancer deaths in the US, researchers said in the study. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.