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Novel Screening Test Capable of Identifying 18 Early-Stage Cancers Could Be a Game Changer

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 15 Jan 2024
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Image: A groundbreaking cancer screening test marks a major step towards early detection (Photo courtesy of Novelna Inc.)
Image: A groundbreaking cancer screening test marks a major step towards early detection (Photo courtesy of Novelna Inc.)

Cancer, responsible for one-sixth of all global deaths, presents a formidable challenge, particularly because early detection is crucial for improving survival rates. However, current screening tests often fall short due to factors like invasiveness, cost, and limited accuracy in detecting early-stage diseases. In response to this challenge, researchers have now developed an innovative blood test that can identify 18 types of early-stage cancers across various major organs in the human body.

This groundbreaking test from Novelna Inc. (Palo Alto, CA, USA) leverages a gender-specific panel of 10 proteins, providing a significant advancement in the ongoing battle against cancer. The foundation for the test was laid by pioneering research that underscores the potential for a new class of cancer screening tests, promising enhanced accuracy, reduced cost, and a move towards personalized healthcare. In their research, the Novelna team analyzed plasma samples from 440 individuals, encompassing both healthy subjects and those diagnosed with 18 different early-stage solid tumors. They employed proximity extension assays to assess over 3,000 proteins—both high-abundance and low-abundance—in each sample. Subsequently, they applied a multi-layered statistical process to identify a select group of gender-specific proteins capable of detecting early-stage cancers and identifying their origin tissue with high accuracy.

This test's focus on gender-specific proteins allows for unparalleled sensitivity and specificity, acknowledging the unique biological differences in cancer development between men and women. Relying on protein markers rather than traditional genomic markers enhances the test's ability to detect various cancers accurately and promptly. The choice to limit the detection to 10 essential proteins considerably reduces the test's cost. Compared to Multi-Cancer Early Detection (MCED) tests, which can be priced around USD 1,000, Novelna's innovative test is expected to cost under USD 100, making early cancer detection more accessible for many.

With a sensitivity exceeding 80% for Stage I and II cancers—stages where patients are often asymptomatic—Novelna's test surpasses existing methods, which generally show less than 50% sensitivity for detecting cancers at early stages. This breakthrough holds the potential for reshaping public health strategies by integrating this plasma test into regular health check-ups. The high specificity of the test reduces the likelihood of false positives, and its affordability paves the way for broad implementation. The test could prove to be a game-changer in cancer screening by saving a significant number of lives.

"Our study represents a major leap in cancer screening, combining the precision of protein-based biomarkers with the efficiency of sex-specific analysis," said Dr. Ashkan Afshin, Founder of Novelna Inc. "We're not only looking at a more effective way of detecting cancer early but also at a cost-effective solution that can be implemented on a large scale."

"While further validation in larger population cohorts is necessary, we anticipate that our test will pave the way for more efficient, accurate, and accessible cancer screening," added Dr. Afshin.

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