Life - Articles - Multi cancer early detection screening

Multi-cancer early detection (MCED) blood tests have the potential to increase early detection rates of some cancers, improving survivability. MCED tests may reduce the costs associated with late-stage cancer treatments; more real-world studies needed to validate their efficacy and applicability in the wider population.

 Concerns around MCEDs include their ability to detect cancers at early stages and the specific cancer site of origin

 Swiss Re Institute report examines the effectiveness of eight MCED tests under various stages of development, with significant differences in their ability to detect specific cancers

 Multi-cancer early detection blood tests offer a future where a single blood test can provide a routine, comprehensive screening for a range of cancers. This type of minimally invasive test would be a revolution in the early detection of cancers and has the potential to improve survival rates and decrease the economic burden of late-stage treatments. However, MCEDs are still in the early stages of development. Swiss Re Institute's new report "Multi-Cancer Early Detection: cancer screening beyond today's boundaries", explores the future risks and opportunities for patients and insurers.

 Natalie Kelly, Swiss Re’s Head of Global L&H Underwriting, Claims & R&D says: "MCEDs offer us hope of catching cancers at the earliest stages, boosting survival rates and reducing costs by avoiding complicated late-stage treatments. However, given this early stage of their development, we need to carefully examine their potential, their risks, and the implications for insurers."

 Early detection to save lives and reduce treatment costs
 MCED blood tests are a type of liquid biopsy which can detect cancer biomarkers in a single sample of blood. These minimally invasive blood tests can be effective in detecting cancers at an earlier stage, potentially before patients are symptomatic.

 Research indicates that early diagnosis can significantly improve 5-year survival rates for some cancers by 15–25%, if they can be detected before they spread to other parts of the body.

 Earlier detection also has the potential to reduce the cost of treating cancer. Cancer Research UK concluded that treatment for certain cancers at stage 3 and 4 cost the UK's National Health Service nearly two and a half times more than the amount spent on treating cancers at stages 1 and 2.

 Concerns over missing real-world evidence and potential for inaccurate test results
 While the potential to increase survivability is promising, Swiss Re Institute urges caution. Although statistical evidence points to large theoretical gains in survival rates and cost savings, at this early stage of development there are no studies which have validated that potential in a real-world setting. Further, MCED tests currently require clinical validation by conventional diagnostic methods prior to commencing any treatment. There is also a risk of causing distress for patients who are given inaccurate results.

 In order to better understand these concerns, Swiss Re Institute's paper examines the effectiveness of eight MCED tests under various stages of development, including some in clinical trials. Swiss Re uncovered significant differences in the current generation of MCED tests, in their ability to detect specific cancers, early and accurately, when treatment options are most likely to be effective.

 With the speed of medical innovation, all signs point towards the wider deployment of MCED tests, as a complementary tool to existing practices within a decade.

 For insurers, Swiss Re Institute's report examines the impact of widespread adoption of MCED tests and implications for life and health insurance products, particularly life, critical illness, and medical reimbursement covers. It outlines the need to undertake risk assessments to consider potential implications of MCED tests on underwriting guidelines, pricing, claims, product design, and regulatory compliance.
 You can download "Multi-Cancer Early Detection: cancer screening beyond today's boundaries" here.

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