Until now, a biopsy study looking for cancer usually involves either a sharp scalpel to remove the suspected tissue or a needle injected into the site requiring examination. What if a simple, inexpensive blood test could do the following:
- Detect cancer from benign conditions
- Identify slow vs. fast-growing cancers
- Help determine newer and more targeted treatments
Welcome to the future: liquid (blood or urine) biopsies will take over the diagnosis of most cancers.
Thanks to the advancement of DNA-focussed research, the liquid biopsy is now a reality. This testing allows for the detection of “circulating tumour cells” in the blood. There is still work to be done to increase the test’s ability to find a tumour every time it is present and to identify the type of tumour. That being said, there is unprecedented optimism for better cancer screening and diagnosis. This is particularly the case for cancers with poor survival outcomes such as ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreas and esophagus, where no reliable screening tests exist.
Underwriting and liquid biopsies
A sophisticated early cancer detection liquid biopsy could influence underwriting and risk pricing profoundly. What remains to be seen is how the industry will balance the availability of new diagnostic technology to help assess risk, with the legislative restrictions that limit underwriters from using DNA-based testing in the risk selection setting.
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