Earlier this month, GRAIL, Inc., a life sciences company dedicated to finding early detection strategies for cancer patients, announced that it has made progress toward developing a method for identifying multiple types of cancer through blood tests. The announcement was made at the annual American Association for Cancer Research meeting.
Testing patients already known to have early stage cancer, GRAIL scientists employed full genome sequencing to analyze DNA entering the blood stream shed by dying tumor cells. Sixty-five percent of patients’ test results came back positive; GRAIL believes that based on this success, it may be possible to develop early detection blood tests that can identify multiple cancer types with greater than 99% specificity.
This comes as welcome news to investors. GRAIL has garnered more than a billion dollars in investment from a diverse array of stakeholders, including healthcare investment company McKesson Ventures.
GRAIL has drawn attention in part for this large level of investment in comparison to its competitors, but also because it features a robust advisory board boasting numerous scientific heavyweights and employs an ambitious approach focusing on whole-genome sequencing, a process that is both scientifically complex and expensive.
If these early results are any indication, the approach will be well worth it. As the science progresses, the hope is that any liquid biopsy would not only be able to identify cancer in its early stages, but also be able to identify the organ from which the cancer cells are being produced so that doctors can remove tumors before they spread.