Blood test for cancer recurrence aims to cover more patients

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WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — A one-of-a-kind blood test can detect cancer recurrence in certain patients in a more accurate and faster way than typical scans.

It’s gotten the attention of the FDA and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Patients who depend on the test hope that as their cancer slows, confidence in the medical community grows to use it to determine treatment and ultimately save lives.

“When you find out you have cancer, it’s not a death sentence any more,” said David Fryday, one of the test users.

But for 71-year-old Fryday, colon cancer was still a long battle: a misdiagnosis, then a colonoscopy, a serious surgery and six months of chemotherapy.

“That knocked me flat,” Fryday said.

Now more than a year later, Fryday remains cancer free, and he relies on the blood test, not just a typical scan, to tell him so.

“It gives you a lot of peace of mind that you’ll discover it earlier,” he said. “Maybe the treatment won’t be severe.”

“It’s ushering in a whole new era of personalized medicine,” said Solomon Moshkevich, the general manager of oncology for Natera.

Moshkevich helped develop the post-surgical test. He said it is tailored individually to patients based on the mutations found in their tumors.

“By the end of this decade, Signatera is going to be as standard for monitoring and managing all solid cancers as a CT scan is today,” Moshkevich said.

Medicare and most insurance companies are starting to cover this and other circulating tumor DNA tests depending on the cancer. However, many doctors are still hesitant to use the new technology to determine treatment.

“It’s all about the data,” Moshkevich said.

While companies continue to gather more evidence, the work has become personal for Moshkevich. His dad continues to fight stage three esophageal cancer.

“That was really hard for us as a family,” Moshkevich said. “That’s a tough diagnosis.”

But Moshkevich said the test gives patients like his dad a better chance and others like Fryday the freedom to plan for the future.

“We really feel like we got a jump on the cancer coming back,” Moshkevich said.

“I’m based on the assumption it won’t come back so I’m not stopping anything,” Fryday said.

The company is currently working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to cover more cancers and the FDA to approve the test.

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