The “liquid biopsy” of this startup can help to find previously unrecognized types of cancer



Blood-based cancer screening company Thrive Early Detection Corp. published data from a Phase 1 study showing that his diagnostic test was able to detect some early-stage cancers in patients without cancer symptoms.


The study published in the journal science and conducted in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, found 26 new cancers in more than 9,900 women who had no history of cancer or disease symptoms.

The blood test was able to show the potential presence of cancer, but not where in the body the cancer was located; that was diagnosed with a PET-CT scan.

A blood test followed by a scan had a specificity of 99.6% (meaning there were few false positives), but the blood test alone has a sensitivity of 31%, meaning a number of cancer cases may have been missed the exam.

David Daly, CEO of Thrive, says the liquid biopsy test should be used alongside regular cancer screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies, and should not be used as a substitute.

Crucial quote

Nickolas Papadopoulos, oncologist at Johns Hopkins and lead author of the study, said he was not bothered by possible false-negative results because the types of cancer detected are usually diseases for which screening tests are not available, such as uterine cancer. and kidney cancer. “Everything we discovered was in addition to what can be proven by the standard of care,” says Papadopoulos.

Key background

Cambridge-based Thrive is a relative newcomer to the hot field of liquid biopsy for cancer detection. As with other liquid biopsy companies, Thrive’s test looks for circulating tumor DNA in the bloodstream, as well as certain proteins, both of which can be early indicators of cancer. The goal is to only find early-stage cancer through a blood draw so that it can be treated before symptoms progress. Some liquid biopsy companies, like heavyweight GRAIL, have raised billions of dollars to help achieve this goal. Thrive kicked off a $ 110 million Series A round in May last year led by Third Rock Ventures.

What’s next

Daly says Thrive is currently in the process of raising more money for its Series B funding round. He also says the company is working closely with the FDA to complete a pivotal Phase 2 clinical trial in early 2021. Like this current study, the next study will test his liquid biopsy’s ability to detect several different types of cancer. “We have proven that we can have a positive impact on patients’ lives,” says Daly, “and that is our goal.”

further reading

These startups are racing to help doctors detect cancer early with a simple blood test (CNBC)

How this multi-million dollar startup could help identify the next epidemic (Forbes)

Understand medical tests: sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value (Health News Review)

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