Grim statistics accompany number one cause of death worldwide: 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Early diagnosis dramatically improves survival, but unfortunately unscreened cancers account for 80-90% of cancer deaths, says Harpal Kumar, president of the European branch of graila healthcare company whose mission is to find cancer earlier.
Of more than 200 types of cancer, we currently only screen for cervical, breast and bowel cancer, Kumar says. He calls it the streetlight problem: “We look for cancer in the light, but four-fifths happen in the dark.” But even if we check all of these cancers, people won’t show up for 200 screenings. “We can’t continue the paradigm of finding these cancers one at a time,” he says.
The Dream is a unique test that can identify every cancer from a single blood sample – and that’s pretty much what Grail has developed: a test that is sensitive to early-stage cancers, can detect and locate many different types of cancer, yields very few false positives, and can target the most serious cancers.
Gallery is the result. The company claims it can detect more than 50 types of cancer with a single blood sample. Just as normal cells lose DNA when they die, so do tumor cells, and this DNA is traceable in the blood. The test has been validated by Grail in clinical trials: if the test detects something, there is a 45% chance that it is cancer, an extremely high predictive rate for a cancer screening test. Galleri says he can predict where cancer is in the body with 90% accuracy.
The test has been commercially available in the United States for 18 months. The next step is the NHS-Galleri clinical trial—to demonstrate that the trial works at scale “We’ll get the first data from this trial next year, and then if that data looks good, they’ll expand the pilot to a million people over the next few years, and then complete it in the next three years,” says Kumar.