By Richard Brand, Chief Financial Officer
More than 4,700 people are diagnosed with cancer each day. About four in 10 Americans—40 percent of men and 38 percent of women—will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime.
Across cancer types, patients’ 10-year survival rate is 90 percent when cancer is detected in Stage 1, compared to only 5 percent when cancer is detected in Stage 4.
The ability to accurately detect cancer from a blood draw holds immense promise for improving the diagnosis, prognosis and monitoring of cancer. A wider range of treatment regimens are available to the physician when cancer is detected early. Testing for and detecting cancer earlier—even before symptoms arise—enables physicians to treat earlier and smarter, improving patient chances of survival and reducing the cost of cancer treatment.
79% Stage 1 or 2
57% Stage 3
24% Stage 4
Cancer survival rate by stage of detection
Like the evolution and transformation in HIV prevention and testing over the last several decades, cancer survival statistics suggest that earlier detection would set in motion a paradigm shift. Earlier detection could change the nature of a cancer diagnosis from a death sentence to a treatable condition, while also addressing the escalated cost of treatment in later stages of cancer by reducing the proportion of patients who begin treatment in later stages. Best of all, earlier detection gives patients more options for treatment than if the cancer is caught at a later stage.
Mammograms to detect breast cancer, colonoscopies for colon cancer and Pap tests for cervical cancer have each impacted the mortality of populations that are subject to these types of cancer. Yet, for the other 20 of the 23 most common types of cancer, there are no accurate diagnostic tests recommended by the National Cancer Institute.
Scientists, doctors and companies aim to discover and develop diagnostic tests that are both highly accurate and cost-effective. Such diagnostic tests could provide a powerful supplement to the standard of care.
Some of this research has centered on tests based on blood samples, which have thus far delivered incredibly promising results. Blood samples are non-invasive to the patient, as they’re performed during annual physicals. Such tests are known as liquid biopsy.
In addition to detection, liquid biopsies expand physicians’ ability to test patients more regularly for monitoring of cancer and remission. There’s a physical limit to how many physical biopsies a physician can take from a patient over a period of time, particularly for a patient who is already battling cancer, as physicians do not want to continually subject a patient to additional pain. If the patient’s tumor has diminished in size from the treatment, there can also be great difficulty in executing some biopsy tests. Accurate and validated liquid biopsy tests can address these limitations for improved monitoring and treatment of patients following initial surgery or other procedures.
The non-invasive nature of a blood test and immense potential for accurate, cost-effective screening and monitoring could fundamentally change the conversation around treating cancer.
Furthermore, liquid biopsy tests are already changing the game, making hope a reality for patients and providers all over the world.