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What is Multi-Cancer Early Detection (MCED) or Liquid Biopsy, and Why Does It Matter?

Cancer affects all of us in one way or another—whether it be a friend, family member, or ourselves. This deadly disease is the second leading cause of death in the United States. However, recent innovations hold great promise to detect cancer earlier than ever before, leading to better health outcomes for patients and more effective, efficient treatment.

What Are Multi-Cancer Early Detection Tests?

Multi-cancer early detection (MCED) or liquid biopsies are blood-based tests designed to identify the presence of cancer for more than one cancer at a time in earlier stages when treatment outcomes are more favorable.

These game-changing tests can detect numerous types of cancers by looking for cancer signals in the blood and are designed to be complementary to existing screenings. Brem Foundation to Defeat Breast Cancer strongly supports innovative efforts to advance early detection of cancer and to ensure widespread, equitable access to these technologies once they receive FDA approval.

Liquid biopsy cancer screening holds tremendous promise for patient care: it can reduce the need for tissue biopsies – an invasive and sometimes painful procedure – as well as the number of cancer imaging appointments or augment a mammography screening.

Why Do Multi-Cancer Early Detection Tests Matter?

It is well-documented that early detection of breast cancer saves lives. 95 percent of women who receive an early breast cancer diagnosis are able to pursue treatment, with high rates of survival. That number drops to 30% when breast cancer is caught at later stages. 

The impact of late-stage cancer diagnosis is magnified in communities of color and throughout underserved communities, where overall cancer outcomes are worse. Shamefully, black women today are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women.

A blood test capable of detecting many cancer types—most of which have no recommended screening in the U.S.—could have an enormous impact in helping people access more effective, efficient treatment. New MCED tests in development can detect a common cancer signal from over 50 different types of cancer and predict where the signal has come from in the body.

Furthermore, researchers have developed a next-generation liquid biopsy technology that can be used to analyze patient blood samples and precisely distinguish those with breast cancer from those without. Study results published in npj Breast Cancer indicate that with liquid biopsy technology, it is possible to improve early breast cancer detection and staging at diagnosis.

Compared to tissue biopsy, liquid biopsy provides a less-invasive way to detect, analyze, and monitor cancer in the blood or other fluids. The hope is that liquid biopsies will routinely be used for these purposes, but also to detect early-stage breast cancer or identify biomarkers of risk before cancer occurs.

More research is still needed to assess the impact that multi-cancer screening technology may have and the potential to detect more cancers at earlier stages. Yet it’s clear that if approved by the FDA and shown to have clinical benefits, millions of people, especially older Americans at higher risk for cancer, must be able to access these tests. This includes Medicare coverage of the tests, which would reduce disparities and create more equitable access to cancer early detection.

Everyone Deserves Equitable Access to Early Detection. Join Us In Championing The MCED Screening Coverage Act

Brem Foundation is proud to strongly support the bi-partisan Nancy Gardner Sewell Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act, which will create a pathway for Medicare to cover these blood-based cancer screening tests once FDA-approved. 

Brem joins a diverse array of medical, communal, and public health-focused organizations in this effort and will continue to use our voice and expertise to promote this effort to drive access to cutting-edge innovation. Not only will this legislation save lives, but it will also help address glaring disparities and reduce long-standing inequities in cancer diagnosis and mortality.

Download our fact sheet to learn more about how this legislation could improve the quality of life for millions of American cancer patients—because everyone with cancer deserves a fighting chance.