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What are multi-cancer early detection (MCED) tests?

Multi-cancer early detection (MCED) tests are blood-based screening tests (also called liquid biopsies) that are designed to identify the presence of cancer for more than one cancer at a time at the earliest possible stages, before noticeable symptoms occur.

Multi-cancer early detection is a groundbreaking new type of cancer screening test that utilizes advances in genomic science and machine learning to transform cancer detection. MCED tests:

  • Are designed to detect many types of cancers by looking for cancer signals in the blood.
  • Are designed to be complementary to existing screenings and extend the benefits of early detection to catch more cancers in early, more treatable stages.
  • Have received breakthrough designations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Their clinical programs continue to advance, as evidenced by data published in peer-reviewed publications.1
  • Are being developed by multiple companies in partnership with many of the top cancer research institutions in America.

Why do we need multi-cancer early detection tests?

Early detection saves lives. Unfortunately, the important benefits of early cancer detection are not reaching enough people.

The routine cancer screening tests currently available and covered by Medicare detect only five cancer types—lung, breast, cervical, colorectal and prostate—which means there are no early detection tests for most cancer types. But when cancer is detected early, nearly nine of every 10 cancer patients will live five years or longer.2

A blood test capable of detecting many cancer types—most of which have no recommended screening in the U.S—could have a tremendous impact in helping people access more effective, efficient treatment.


1. Lennon AM, Buchanan AH, Kinde I, Warren A, Honushefsky A, et al. “Feasibility of blood testing combined with PET-CT to screen for cancer and guide intervention.” Science, July 3, 2020. Vol. 369, Issue 6499. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/369/6499/eabb9601

Hubbell E, Clarke CA, Aravanis AM, Berg CD. “Modeled Reductions in Late-state Cancer with a Multi-Cancer Early Detection Test.” American Association for Cancer Research, published first December 16, 2020, Vol. 30, Issue 3, pp. 460-468. https://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/30/3/460

2. Noone AM, Howlader N, Krapcho M, Miller D, Brest A, Yu M, Ruhl J, Tatalovich Z, Mariotto A, Lewis DR, Chen HS, Feuer EJ, Cronin KA (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2015, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, https://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2015/, based on November 2017 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER web site, April 2018.

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