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Tomasz M. Beer, MD, FACP

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Examining Developments in Multicancer Early Detection: Highlights of New Clinical Data from Recent Conferences

December 3rd 2021

Cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the United States despite decades of treatment advances. While death rates have fallen for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers, death rates remain high for the majority of malignancies, primarily given the late stage at which they are diagnosed. The US Preventive Services Task Force currently recommends routine screening for just 4 cancers: breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung (for high-risk individuals); for prostate cancer, recommendations support individual decision making. However, cancers without recommended screening tests account for 71% of cancer deaths in the United States. In addition, screening rates remain below national goals, with numerous barriers to population-based screening. Recently, initial results of studies on blood-based multicancer early detection tests, which rely on measurement of a range of analytes, demonstrate the potential to identify multiple cancers in a single blood test and detect many cancers for which no screening tests are currently recommended. Blood-based tests have the potential to be more accessible and easier to disseminate than organ-specific tests. However, it remains unclear if their use can reduce deaths from these cancers. Other issues include cost-effectiveness, the impact of false-positive and false-negative results on patients and costs, and uptake among individuals and clinicians. Research and development of blood-based multicancer early detection tests continue.

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