Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Patients already using new experimental blood tests to detect cancer, Washington Post reports

Some patients may be using blood tests to detect cancer that haven't been cleared by the FDA.

A story by Marlene Simons in today's editions of The Washington Post reports that Galleri, a new multi-cancer detection test, is but one of 20 tests in various stages of development that analyze substances in the blood that might indicate cancer. 

Those tests, the article says, "may be especially useful finding 'silent' cancers — such as pancreatic or ovarian cancer — which often don't cause symptoms until the disease is advanced and more difficult to treat."

On the flip side, Simons' piece indicates, "while these findings are promising, experts warned of drawbacks. So far, there's no evidence that finding cancer via a blood test translates to longer survival and fewer deaths, or even a cure, experts said."

Dr. Lori Minasian
The WashPost story also quotes Dr. Lori Minasian, deputy director of the National Cancer Institute's division of cancer prevention, as warning that "people want to believe there is one test that can pick up all the different kinds of cancers, and if it's negative, they can go on their way. But it's not that simple.

Several experts, the piece continues, "pointed out that multi-cancer detection tests don't find every cancer at its earliest stage, in part because certain cancers spread quickly."

These tests, which aren't covered by Medicare or other insurance, have yet to be cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for final approval — but are available as "lab-based" tests under federal guidelines that "permit their use in certain settings."

Caveats include many unanswered questions, the story says, "such as whether use of the tests should be based on age, risk factors, or family history." Along with the notion of how frequently people should take the blood tests, the remaining issues make it almost certain that they "probably are several years away from widespread use."

More information on research into various diseases can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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