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New blood test could screen for more than 50 different types of cancer

Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 4:01 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Cancer screenings can save lives. But often a test like a mammogram can only detect one type of cancer.

A new blood test is being launched in the United States called Galleri that can potentially detect more than 50 different kinds of cancer.

Pronounced like “gallery,” the makers of the test say it has very few false positives and can pinpoint what specific part of the body a cancer signal is coming from.

“Galleri is a multi-cancer early detection test,” Grail Senior Director of Medical Communications Megan Hall said. “A single blood test can detect signals from over 50 different types of cancer. It does that with a very low false-positive rate of less than one percent. And importantly, it can predict where in the body that cancer signal is coming from. That’s important to help direct your healthcare provider in the downstream confirmatory diagnostic workup should you get a positive test.”

Hall noted that most patients are going to get a negative test because cancer incidence in the population is very low.

But, she said, if a patient does get a positive, being able to predict the origin area of the cancer is invaluable.

Currently, she said, recommended screenings are for breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and, for high-risk cases, lung cancer.

“The problem is there are a large number of cancer types that have no recommended screening tests at all. This includes really aggressive cancer types like pancreatic cancer, esophageal cancer, and ovarian cancer. These cancers tend to be detected at later stages when patients are symptomatic, and outcomes are really poor. Galleri is an opportunity to detect a large number of cancer types at earlier stages,” Hall said.

The technology is not FDA approved at this point. Hall said agency labeled it as “a breakthrough device.”

The test is described as a simple blood draw that could be incorporated into an annual physical exam like a cholesterol test.

Hall said Galleri is being launched as an LDT - a Laboratory Developed Test - so they can get it onto the market as soon as possible.

“We are very concerned about broad access in the longer term which includes coverage and reimbursement,” Hall said. “We are also working with the FDA and have received Breakthrough Device designation for the Galleri test and are in ongoing conversations with them because we recognize how important it is to get this technology to as many patients as possible.”

Galleri requires a prescription.

The test is recommended for adults with an elevated cancer risk, the company’s website says, including people 50 years or older.

Hall said the list price of the test is $949 but the exact cost would depend on the healthcare provider and healthcare system.

Patients may be able to use a health savings account to pay for the test, she said.

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