Dear LabPulse Member,
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, held May 31 to June 4 in Chicago, brought much hype and attention to the promise of liquid biopsy tests for multiple types of cancer, though development is still in its early stages.
Grail reported preliminary data for its investigational multicancer test in a poster presentation at the meeting. The company noted, among other things, that the assay had 76% sensitivity overall and 99% specificity for 12 prespecified tumor types that account for most cancer deaths in the U.S. It's still early days yet, but the company plans to submit a premarket approval application after it gets data next year from a large study of 10,000 women undergoing screening mammography.
Following in Grail's footsteps is the new startup Thrive, which timed the announcement of its own launch and CancerSEEK multicancer test in sync with the ASCO meeting, though it did not have data to present there. The test was developed and licensed by Johns Hopkins University researchers, and the company got a jump-start with $100 million in series A financing from Third Rock Ventures and other investors.
The ASCO meeting also featured updated New England Journal of Medicine data from the massive Trial Assigning Individualized Options for Treatment (TAILORx) study of women with early breast cancer. The updated findings continue to support the use of the Oncotype DX 21-gene assay (Genomic Health), but they show that guiding treatment for women at lower risk of recurrence is more complex than working with a risk prediction test score and suggest more thinking is needed for high-risk women younger than 50. In a tweet from the meeting, Dana Farber specialist Dr. Harold Burstein, PhD, described the update as "arguably [the] most important clinical data in breast cancer."
Outside of oncology, a sequencing study published last week identified rare coding variants in the apolipoprotein B gene associated with high cholesterol in patients with early-onset Alzheimer's, a finding that could lead to better treatments for the rare condition in the future.
Finally, precision medicine is booming, with potential applications across several big therapeutic areas, and it is expected to provide new professional opportunities for pathologists in the future. But a new workforce study tracked a large decline in the number of pathologists actively practicing in the U.S., even though all seem to have greater workloads. Look out for awareness efforts this summer aimed at refilling the pipeline of pathology practitioners.