This screening tool tests for 50 types of cancer despite FDA hurdles

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Wednesday, July 10, 2024
Hospitals embrace multi-cancer screening tool despite FDA hurdles
Screening tests for cancer are getting more sophisticated, and Southern California hospitals are now offering a blood test that checks for 50 types of cancer.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Not everybody is ready for a test that screens for 50 types of cancer, and not every doctor believes these "Cancer Finding Super Tests" can save lives.

While they're not FDA approved, many hospitals are offering these multi-cancer screening tools in the hopes it can give patients the early warning they need to prevent disease. One Brentwood man said the test gives him peace of mind.

Among his female relatives, Richard Clareman noticed a troubling trend.

"A lot of our girl cousins were suddenly developing breast cancer in their 20s and 30s," he said.

A genetic test revealed the 63-year-old and his sister carried a BRCA mutation. For women, it increases the risk for breast and ovarian cancer. In men, it's pancreas, prostate and melanoma.

Clareman said he knows not everyone with this mutation will develop cancer, but if he did, he wanted to know early.

"We all see people who suffer from those diseases. It's terrible," Clareman said. "And you don't want to. I don't want to get there. So, I'm going to do everything I can to avoid it."

Enter a multi-cancer early detection test called Galleri. Clinicians draw two blood vials and send them to the lab.

Dr. Ora Gordon, with Providence Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center, said it can detect 50 types of cancer. It scans for the DNA fragments that tumor cells shed.

"For example, pancreatic cancer or ovarian cancer, which are very aggressive tumors that tend to grow very quickly. They shed into the bloodstream rapidly," Gordon explained.

However, the test can't detect cancers that don't shed into the bloodstream, such as brain tumors. Gordon said it's meant to complement existing screening methods, not replace them.

"We're really trying to close that gap," Gordan said. "We're asking, 'How do we screen for cancers that people don't even know that they may be at risk for?'"

Age is one of the biggest risk factors for getting cancer. Doctors say anyone over the age of 50 with multiple risk factors, including a history of smoking and heavy alcohol use should consider this test.

A yearly Galleri test is now part of Clareman's routine. At five Providence Hospitals and two affiliate locations, those with elevated risk can purchase a Galleri test.

"I paid $850 to get peace of mind," Clareman said. "I think that's a good investment."

Clareman paid out of pocket because he couldn't wait to be enrolled in a study. Gordon said people with known genetic mutations or other risk factors may be able to enroll in a clinical trial for free.