Company Introduces Technology to Detect Cancer Early
By: CPR @ Mar 14, 2016
If all cancers could be detected early when they were in their first stages, survival rates would be much higher. Unfortunately, too many cancers go undiagnosed until they reach later stages and have spread throughout the body, making them nearly impossible to treat and eventually resulting in patient death. Illumina, which is the largest company in the world for DNA-sequencing, announced in early January of this year that is was working on developing a test that could detect any kind of cancer in its beginning stages.
The Technology Behind the Test
Whether or not the company will be able to develop the test by 2019 – its proposed completion date – is unknown, and many, including Dr. Jose Baselga, the physician in chief at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, seem skeptical. The technology necessary to develop such a test – and an accurate one at that – is extremely advanced. According to an article in The New York Times, the test would search the blood for any DNA that would be deposited from cancerous cells and assess any mutations in DNA sequencing.
Concerns With the Proposed Cancer Screening Test
The concerns with the proposed cancer screening test are numerous. First of all, the test is very expensive, and whether or not it could be made affordable for patients (no more than $1,000, according to the same Times article cited above) is unknown.
Second, whether or not mutated cells that are found in DNA in the blood stream are actually cancerous may be up for debate. This is because many cells, not just those that are cancerous, shed DNA and many cells that are not cancerous have mutations. Dr. Luis A Diaz Jr., the associate professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins, told reporters that, “As you age, you have mutations.” The problem lies in determining which mutations are actually cancerous.
Of course, this leads to another complication: if the tests do detect DNA from potentially-cancerous cells and mutations in patients’ blood, treatment for such cancers is sure to ensue. When patients are treated for innocuous forms of cancer, they are exposed to harsh medications and therapies. Indeed, many therapies used to treat cancer cause serious health complications. The company has proposed remedying this problem by obtaining screenings from between 30,000 – 50,000 people, some of whom have actual cancer and some of whom merely have mutated cells. Then, data would be used to recognize patterns of cancerous results in order to compare with the results of future patients.
When Cancer Is Misdiagnosed
Again, one of the biggest concerns is that cancer would be misdiagnosed, and a person would undergo treatment for a dangerous mutation from which they do not actually suffer, leading to undue levels of harm. The same concern is present today: many patients are incorrectly diagnosed and receive unnecessary therapies. On the flip side, other patients’ cancers go undetected, and their cancerous cells proliferate and increase risk of death as a result.
If you believe that a medical professional has negligently handled your health condition and that you have suffered harm as a direct result, you should schedule a free case consultation with the experienced malpractice attorneys at the law firm of Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. today. We can help you to understand whether or not you have a case, and if so, what the right course of action is.