Revolutionary genetic sequencing may change the future of cancer prevention and screening. Illumina is developing a blood test called a liquid biopsy that can diagnose cancer — including oral cancers — in people long before they have any symptoms.
Illumina says it will use its genetic sequencing technology to identify genetic material from tumor cells in peoples’ blood well before they have any evidence of cancer. The test would check for genetic mutations known to be found in tumors.
Liquid biopsies are already in use by doctors to see how a patient is responding to cancer treatment. Never before, however, have these biopsies been used for screening prevention.
Jay Flatley, Illumina’s chief executive and chairman of the spin-off company, Grail says, “By enabling the early detection of cancer in asymptomatic individuals through a simple blood screen, we aim to massively decrease cancer mortality by detecting the disease at a curable stage.”
It will be several years before this liquid biopsy will be designed, tested, and approved by regulators. And while tumors are known to drop bits of genetic material into the blood, cancer experts caution that some early cancers may not secrete DNA fragments and will require other types of detection.
Cancer is the second killer overall in the United States,