By Kathleen Berger, Executive Producer for Science and Technology
Nancy Dixon’s father died from pancreatic cancer two years after his diagnosis. Dixon was age 16 when he died.
“Pancreatic cancer is one that you don’t find out about it until it’s too late,” she said.
Dixon is trying to do whatever she can to protect her daughter from the tragedy she had experienced.
“My daughter is older than I was, but she’s young, and so this is to make sure I’m around as long as I can be.”
Dixon had her blood drawn for an early cancer detection blood test, to include many types of cancer in one blood test. She’s confident the new GRAIL blood test, pioneered by Galleri, will help her. At the very least, it will give her peace of mind. Mercy is now proudly offering the multi-cancer, early detection blood test that detects more than 50 types of cancers in clinical trials. The test demonstrated the ability to detect a shared signal from those cancers.
“This blood test is a single blood test that looks for over 50 cancers and it looks for cancer markers in the bloodstream. And by analyzing that through advanced, next generation sequencing, we can find out the tumor source,” said John Mohart, MD, President of Mercy Communities. “The sensitivity and specificity of these tests varies based on the cancer. It’s very specific though, it’s about 99.5% percent specific. Meaning, if you have a positive signal, you likely have a cancer that you don’t know about yet. So that’s the goal of this, to find those earlier.”
Mercy is early among health systems to offer the innovative blood test.
“Through our research arm of Mercy, which we continue to do clinical research, we were one of the largest enrolling sites in the trial that brought this to market,” said Mohart.
Recommended cancer screenings in the U. S. currently cover only five types of cancer – breast, cervical, colon, lung, prostate – and are screened one at a time.
“But deep-seated cancers like pancreatic, esophageal, ovarian, are often not detected until too late because there’s no set screening for those. Our goal would be to detect these cancers before tumors outgrow where they start causing symptoms. So, it could be months to years before that. But this is certainly the future of medicine where we can detect cancers earlier, get people in for treatment, better outcomes and better life.”
A prescription for the blood test is required. It’s recommended for adults with an elevated risk for cancer such as anyone age 50 or older. The GRAIL blood test is new and is not currently covered by insurance. It costs $949. Financial assistance through Mercy is available for those who qualify.
“Obtain the test by just going to Mercy.net and then clicking on multi-cancer early detection testing. And that kind of walks you through the steps,” explained Mohart. “And we have a digital format where you can register and see if you’re eligible, and then you’ll get a phone call back from someone from our Center for Precision Medicine that can walk you through more details or provide you more information.”
“I Think this is something my dad, 30 something years ago, I wish this had been available, then he might be here and he might be here for my daughter,” said Dixon. “There’s nothing 100%, but I’m at the age that my dad was already dead. And so if there is anything that we can do – something proactive – I think it’ll just give me some peace of mind.”