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Artificial Intelligence cancer blood test by Gelleri Grail

Artificial Intelligence Develops Cancer Blood Test

Artificial intelligence has been used to develop a blood test that can detect up to 50 different types of cancer before signs of the illnesses emerge. 

Ovarian cancer is one of the varieties the machine learning can detect - a game changing advancement since ovarian cancer is often considered a silent killer because of the lack of symptoms. 

The NHS will be trialling the blood test. Named Galleri, it has been developed by GRAIL, a US medtech company. 

How does it work?

It uses a machine learning technology to examine cell free DNA (cfDNA). CfDNA is a substance that leaks into the bloodstream from tumors. It detects chemical changes called methylation patterns. 

The results so far...

The initial study used patients who had already been diagnosed with cancer. The blood test successfully detected a positive cancer result in more than 50% of cases, and was able to detect the location of the cancer in 88.7% of cases. 

50% is not perfect yet, but given that it is able to detect some ‘silent’ cancers, the test has the potential to save many lives each year.

NHS trial AI developed cancer blood test

NHS trials 

The NHS will be commencing a trial in the middle of 2021. Around 165,000 symptom-free  patients aged 50-79 will take part. They will be asked to take the blood test annually. If the trial is successful it will be expanded to a larger study of more than 1 million patients in 2024 and 2025. 

In 2018 the government announced plans to invest in AI health care for early cancer and chronic disease detection. The NHS Long Term Plan is seeking to increase the number of cancer cases that are detected early, at Stage 1 and Stage 2. Patients in whom cancer is detected at this early stage have 5-10 times the survival rate of those detected later. Within some cancers, like ovarian cancer, there are very few symptoms until the cancer has reached late stage development, so a test like this would be a game changer for those silent cancers. 

Sir Harpal Kumar, president of GRAIL Europe, said: “Galleri, a simple blood test that’s capable of detecting more than 50 cancers, is a ground-breaking and potentially life-saving advance that could have a tremendous human and economic benefit. Grail is thrilled to partner with the NHS and UK government to support the NHS Long Term Plan for earlier cancer diagnosis, and we are eager to bring our technology to patients in the UK as quickly as we can.”

NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “Early detection – particularly for hard-to-treat conditions like ovarian and pancreatic cancer – has the potential to save many lives. This promising blood test could therefore be a game-changer in cancer care, helping thousands more people to get successful treatment.”

Dr Marco Gerlinger from London’s Institute of Cancer Research said: “This new study shows impressive results for a simple blood test that can detect multiple cancer types. False positives are low which is important as this will avoid misdiagnoses. For some of the most common tumour types such as bowel or lung cancer, the test even picked up cancers that were very small, at a stage where many of them could potentially be cured.”

GRAIL is not the only player in the market utilising AI to develop cancer detection tests. There is fierce competition on the market and a number of potential options are under development. 

Last year, a UK based business called CanSense based in South Wales have utilised AI to  develop a blood test that can detect bowel cancer. Read more about CanSense and their revolutionary research here.

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Read more from the Volanto team: 

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At Volanto we love seeing the power of tech at work, especially when it is helping save lives. Medtech is a hugely exciting area of technological advancement and an area where digital transformation can really have a meaningful impact. These Artificial Intelligence cancer blood tests are a perfect example. 

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