Slate published an article a few years ago entitled “Where Do the Millions of Cancer Research Dollars Go Every Year?” The article was an oncologist’s response to the question posed by the title, which was originally posed by a user on Quora. The article points out the staggering amount of cancer detection research dollars spent in the last 40+ years, about $90 billion by 2013, and the relatively small amount of progress that researchers had made in that time. After all, chemotherapy was invented in the 1940s, and that is still the primary method of cancer eradication that we use today.
But a recent development in cancer research may have made significant progress in the area of cancer detection. The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center recently developed CancerSEEK, “a unique noninvasive” test that “evaluates levels of eight cancer proteins and the presence of cancer gene mutations from circulating DNA in the blood.”
A Game Changer in Cancer Detection
CancerSEEK is a blood test, and thus non-invasive. Screening would therefore be as gentle on patients as any other blood lab. Current screening methods report less accurate results, and many use invasive radition (like MRI and CT scans) to detect cancer. And yet, Johns Hopkins reports that the test may be up to 99% accurate on detecting the 8 types of cancer it screens for, which far outpaces current screening methods. But the best part of CancerSeek is this: 5 of the 8 cancers it screens for don’t even currently have a screening test.
Cancer detection plays a pivotal role in cancer research. Early detection is still one of the key factors of survival for those diagnosed with cancer. As cancer research struggles to move past the chemotherapy era, early detection more than triples cancer patients’ chance of survival. Only 5% of people diagnosed in the fourth stage of cancer survive at least 10 years, compared to 80% for those diagnosed in stages 1 or 2.
Better Results, Lower Costs
Forbes gives us another reason to be excited about this new development. According to them, the proposed cost for this potentially life-saving test is just $500, “less than most currently available screens for single cancer types.” With CancerSEEK screening for up to eight types of cancer at once, this represents a huge financial benefit to the public. For less than the cost of an Apple laptop, both you and your loved one could be screened.
This development, along with the 2018 development of a single shot cure for early-detected cancer, gives some hope that our national investment in cancer research has not been in vain, and will continue to lead to groundbreaking discoveries in 2019.