New blood test developed by Silicon Valley-based group screens for colon cancer

Lyanne Melendez Image
Saturday, March 23, 2024
New blood test developed in Silicon Valley screens for colon cancer
Today, a simple blood test developed by Guardant Health in Silicon Valley can detect colon cancer.

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- More than 53,000 Americans are expected to die from colon cancer this year. Even more alarming is that the number of deaths has increased among people under the age of 50. This month is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and patients like Jamie Comer are urging people to get tested.

Comer has fought hard to stay alive after a stage four colon cancer diagnosis in 2016.

A routine medical checkup the year before showed no signs of cancer.

"In one year's time, I had developed 60 tumors in my liver off of a single tumor in my colon," she said.

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Today, a simple blood test developed by Guardant Health in Silicon Valley could have given Comer a much better outcome.

"It measures the DNA that's generated for cancer, and if they have the broken DNA then that raised the flag that they need to have some follow up to confirm that," said Dr. Craig Eagle, chief medical director at Guardant.

In clinical trials, a blood sample was collected from 20,000 patients, followed by a colonoscopy.

The blood test was successful at detecting 83% of early cancers.

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"Had they done that blood test, it would have been a simple surgery," Comer said.

But the test, which still needs FDA approval, was not able to detect most large polyps -- which tend to be harmless, but a few may turn into cancer.

That's why Eagle stresses the need to get screened by the recommended age of 45.

In recent years, the medical community has been baffled by the rising colon cancer rates among even younger people.

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"High fatty diets, high sugar-based diets, low exercise, being overweight," Eagle said.

Comer has this to say to anyone complaining about the unpleasant aspect of a colonscopy.

"I've had about 180 rounds of chemo and seven surgeries, probably about 60 to 70 scans," she told us.

Comer has started touring colleges with her daughter and has this wish.

"I'm very grateful that I've made it this far, and I would really like to be around for the first parents weekend for college, you know? Those are things I would like to do," Comer said.

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