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Inside the Lab Technology and innovation, Oncology

Faster Than a Speeding Biopsy

As our population ages and cancer becomes increasingly prevalent, researchers are always looking for faster (and earlier) ways of detecting tumor growth. The multi-cancer early detection (MCED) test – capable of detecting 50 types of cancer – has previously demonstrated the ability to use circulating cancer DNA to identify the tumor’s site of origin. Now, new research has demonstrated that it can also effectively detect and identify cases of undiagnosed cancer, too (1).

MCED uses a combination of cfDNA and machine learning to locate the origin of a cancer signal. In this case, researchers tested an early version of MCED technology on 6,621 individuals; the technology detected cancer in 1.4 percent of participants (92 patients). Of those identified, cancer was confirmed in 38 percent (35 patients), with a further 73 percent receiving diagnostic resolution within three months.

The study’s findings were presented at the 2022 ESMO Congress, where commentators were keen to emphasize the potential benefits of this new form of diagnostic test. However, they also cautioned that fully bringing MCED into the clinic would require a significant boost to both infrastructure and training in upcoming years.

Earlier this year, a separate study to evaluate the potential of MCED in clinical settings began and is still ongoing (2). Using the infrastructure of the NHS, the study is currently enrolling 140,000 patients from a pool of over one million Brits. The invited patients are aged 50–77 and are digitally selected from certain regions of the country.

Image Credit : Los Muertos Crew /

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  1. D Schrag, “A prospective study of a multi-cancer early detection blood test.” Presented at ESMO Congress 2022; September 11, 2022; Paris, France. Abstract #903O.
  2. C Swanton et al., J Clin Oncol, 40, TPS6606 (2022).
About the Author
George Francis Lee

Deputy Editor, The Pathologist

Interested in how disease interacts with our world. Writing stories covering subjects like politics, society, and climate change.

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