Category Archives: Studies

The Promise of the Liquid Biopsy Cancer Test

The Promise of the Liquid Biopsy Cancer Test

According to the most recent data published by Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society, approximately 1.7 million new cases of cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the United States in 2018 alone. The total number of lives claimed by the disease is estimated to be more than 600,000, with lung cancer, colorectal cancer and breast cancer ranking as the top three deadliest types of cancer.

With so many people and their loved ones affected in the United States alone, it is little wonder that cancer is considered to be the most widely feared illness in the developed world. People are eager for researchers to find a cure for this disease, and scientists studying the subject seem to be making progress with each passing year. The growth of Convergence in Healthcare has been particularly helpful in this regard, as the movement encourages experts from different backgrounds to work in deeply integrative teams to approach the issue of cancer treatment, diagnosis and prevention in new and exciting ways.

Among the most exciting developments in cancer treatment as a result of Convergence in Healthcare is the development of a test known as a liquid biopsy. Although it cannot cure cancer, this medical tool may do the next best thing: provide a simple, affordable and accurate way for physicians to diagnose cancer in its earliest stages, before the worst of its damage can be done and successful treatment of the illness is much more likely. The following is an overview of what the liquid biopsy test is, its benefits and its potential in the future.

 

What is the liquid biopsy?

A liquid biopsy is a preventive medical tool capable of detecting cancer before a tumor has spread from its point of origin in the body — a point when the chance of successful treatment is highest. In some cases, the test can indicate the presence of cancer before any physical symptoms develop. While there are different types of liquid biopsies designed for different uses in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, a particularly promising test profiled by Science magazine in early 2018 is one that can identify up to eight forms of the disease. Known as the CancerSEEK test, this tool also helps physicians identify the location of cancer cells when the test indicates their presence in the body.

CancerSEEK works by measuring “levels of eight cancer proteins and the presence of cancer gene mutations from circulating DNA in the blood,” according to an online article from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where the test was developed. In the study published earlier this year, researchers reported the test identified 70 percent of the 1,000 patients already living with a cancer diagnosis who were tested. CancerSEEK was designed to specifically detect the presence of cancer in the colorectum, lung, breast tissue, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver and ovaries. These eight forms of the disease are collectively responsible for more than 60 percent of deaths caused by cancer every year.

 

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What advantages does the liquid biopsy pose compared to other diagnostic tools?

Apart from being the latest development in the effort to catch cancer cells before they can cause deadly damage to the body, the liquid biopsy is also a less invasive, potentially safer screening method that could one day be a much more affordable way to diagnose the illness than traditional alternatives.

Many traditional cancer screening methods rely on medical imaging technology or surgical procedures to form a diagnosis. Various imaging tools typically used in screenings can expose patients to potentially harmful levels of radiation in the process of trying to determine whether or not cancer is present in the body, which can cause harm at the same time as it is trying to prevent it. Cancers diagnosed via a tumor biopsy, an invasive procedure requiring surgeons to remove tissue directly from the tumor itself, can be uncomfortable and, at times, require surgeons to extract bone marrow tissue to diagnose tumors in inaccessible areas using endoscopic methods and special needles, which subject patients to physical stress. Obtaining the results of tissue biopsies also often takes twice as long as the results of a liquid biopsy, which can be ready in as few as two weeks, in many instances.

The CancerSEEK liquid biopsy specifically is also likely to be more affordable in the future than surgical and imaging-based methods. Since CancerSEEK focuses on a small mutation panel of select biomarkers in the blood, it is much more economical to produce than tests which focus on a much wider range of DNA sequencing. The proposed cost of the test is currently under $500, which is less expensive than most other screening methods for single forms of cancer.

 

What kind of predictions has the scientific community made about the future of the liquid biopsy market?

While researchers still have a long way to go before a liquid biopsy can be considered a fundamentally reliable medical tool, enthusiasm for the test is clear. In October 2018, MarketWatch reported the value of the liquid biopsy market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 23 percent and to reach more than $2 billion by the year 2022. It has been the subject of panel discussions at major conferences such as MedCity CONVERGE and is already demonstrating more growth in use within the health sectors of Europe and Canada.

In the case of CancerSEEK, Johns Hopkins University states the test requires further testing on a large scale before it can be made publicly available. Only time will tell whether this pioneering diagnostic will play a key role in the fight against cancer.

Three Eye Diseases Disproportionately Affecting African-Americans

Three Eye Diseases Disproportionately Affecting African-Americans

The likelihood of contracting an eye disease depends on a variety of internal and external factors. A person’s family background can have a direct impact on the probability of developing certain illnesses affecting vision. Unfortunately, the diversity of people in the US does not accurately reflect the diversity of the country’s health research subjects. As… Continue Reading

How Convergence Could Save New Mothers and their Babies

How Convergence Could Save New Mothers and their Babies

In 2018, U.S. periodicals have drawn attention to the fact that the United States, a pillar of scientific innovation in the global community, has the highest rate of maternal death of any country in the developed world.   Maternal Deaths and Infant Mortality in Developing Countries According to the World Health Organization, women in developing… Continue Reading

Convergent Research Receives 2018 Nobel Prize

Convergent Research Receives 2018 Nobel Prize

Convergence in Healthcare is a movement to bring the sciences together in a deeply collaborative way to solve the world’s most pressing health issues. In a 2016 whitepaper, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) academics defined Convergence in Healthcare as “an approach to problem solving that integrates expertise from life sciences with physical, mathematical, and computational… Continue Reading

How Convergence will Change Medical Care for Patients

How Convergence will Change Medical Care for Patients

In the majority of writing on Convergence in Healthcare, authors focus on what the groundbreaking approach could do for medicine as a whole. Industry experts speculate on the innovative effects of the fresh information and new technologies that can result from the widespread application of Convergence in Healthcare. This integrative research model relies on the… Continue Reading

Three Defining Characteristics of Convergent Research

Three Defining Characteristics of Convergent Research

The concept of convergence is having a transformative impact on the sciences. Considered by many academics to be the third revolution of the life sciences since the discovery of molecular and cellular biology in the 20th century, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) defined convergence in 2011 as “the merging of distinct technologies, processing disciplines,… Continue Reading

Four Things You Need to Know about Federal Funding for US Medical Research

Four Things You Need to Know about Federal Funding for US Medical Research

Scientists, physicians, researchers, and other academics recognize that Convergence in Healthcare is the best way to ensure the US remains a leader in medical innovation. According to a 2016 report authored by leadership from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and supported by experts from other top American universities, Convergence in Healthcare is the single… Continue Reading

This is What You Need to Know about the Future of Alzheimer’s and Convergence in Healthcare

This is What You Need to Know about the Future of Alzheimer’s and Convergence in Healthcare

America has a large number of medical research facilities employing top scientists. However, the U.S. government’s funding of life-saving research programs has declined in the past 15 years. The traditional scientific research model is failing to innovate at a pace to meet global health needs. Without a new approach, the U.S. medical research community is… Continue Reading

Five Ways Convergence in Healthcare Could Impact Everyone’s Future

Five Ways Convergence in Healthcare Could Impact Everyone’s Future

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 2011 whitepaper first explored the idea of convergence as a powerful tool for the advancement of modern science. With each passing year, professionals from science’s major disciplines explored and commended the advantages presented by a deep integration between the sciences — namely, the promise of unprecedented innovation at a… Continue Reading

This Is How the National Science Foundation Benefits Convergence in Healthcare

This Is How the National Science Foundation Benefits Convergence in Healthcare

In 1950, the U.S. government established the National Science Foundation (NSF), a federal agency “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; [and] to secure the national defense.” Since then, the NSF has, by its own admission, been at the forefront of support for “high risk, high reward” research.… Continue Reading