Grail Touts Its Blood Test for Detecting Cancer Early: Brainstorm Health

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Another year, another meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). ASCO’s yearly event draws more than 30,000 investors, executives, scientists, academics, and patient advocates in the cancer drug development space every year. Simply put, it’s the world’s biggest cancer conference.

ASCO 2019 officially took off in Chicago on Friday (this beast lasts till June 4) and, while some analysts are predicting a more low-key convention, at least one company is already making some news: Grail, a mega-funded startup that’s trying to create blood tests for early cancer detection.

Grail has already raised some $1.6 billion in venture capital funding and is touting early (an emphasis on early) results suggesting that its technology can sniff out a multitude of cancers without the need for an invasive tissue biopsy and, more importantly, with a low rate of false positives relative to existing procedures.

But it’s important to note that this is a pilot study and will need rigorous verification in larger trials. Over-diagnosis and over-treatment can prove extremely harmful – not everyone needs treatment that could diminish their quality of life. Still, Grail’s suggestion that its diagnostic can both identify where cancers exist in the body and how deadly they are is a tantalizing one. Much more news out of ASCO in the coming week.