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Blood Testing and Cancer Diagnosis
Find out if "liquid biopsy" can help healthcare providers find previously undetected conditions, such as cancer.
One of the troubling legacies of the Covid pandemic is the growing backlog of preventive care, from in-person physician visits to routine screening tests for serious health conditions.
One way that healthcare systems could catch up on this backlog of undiagnosed diseases is by turning to a new generation of blood tests that can help reveal the presence of serious conditions, such as cancer.
If successful, these next-generation blood-based diagnostic tests, known in the industry as "liquid biopsies" could also help identify conditions that are hard to screen for using conventional technologies.
How Are The New Diagnostic Blood Tests Different From Those Once Promoted By The Discredited Company Theranos?
But wait a second, you might say… this sure sounds a lot like the clinical testing scheme once promoted by the now-discredited company Theranos which purported to test patients for numerous conditions using only a single drop of blood.
You are right.
As we've learned over the past year, the Theranos technology didn't work (despite repeated claims by the company), and this ultimately led to Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes being convicted of fraud (she was sentenced to 10+ years in jail.)
Despite Theranos muddying the waters, several new blood-based diagnostic tests are coming to market. As you might expect, they are receiving significant oversight from the FDA to avoid another debacle.
Unlike Theranos, these new systems focus on tightly defined diagnostic targets – and they require significantly larger blood sample sizes to run a "liquid biopsy." Also, many of these tests don't claim 100% accuracy; some claim to only identify undetectable diseases correctly around 50% of the time. While that number seems low, it does provide a significant diagnostic benefit and will hopefully increase over time.
Early Detection And Treatment Lead To Significantly Better Outcomes, But Clinicians Can Typically Only Screen For A Few Types Of Cancer
Early detection and treatment are the number one way to increase the survivability of diseases such as cancer.
Despite this, primary care physicians lack practical or cost-effective screening tools to identify early-stage cancer cancer in many organs, including the kidneys, pancreas, lungs, colon, and the uterus/ovaries.
Even more expensive tests, such as MRIs and CT scans, often find it difficult to identify early-stage cancers within soft tissues.
How Do These New Blood Tests Detect The Presence Of Cancer Cells In The Body?
So what is the underlying technology powering these new "liquid biopsy" clinical tests?
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