Grail is working on detecting cancer at the earliest stages with a blood test. When dealing with cancer, the earlier it is caught, the easier it is to treat. A blood test is also much easier for people than many other types of cancer screening tests, such as a colonoscopy or mammogram. By making the screening test easier, less painful, and less time consuming to administer, the long-term goal of liquid biopsy tests for oncology is that more people will be willing to get screened at their annual primary care physical.
Grail’s flagship product, the Galleri blood test, is available in the U.S. by prescription for people who are at a higher risk of cancer including those over 50 years old, and as a complementary test to other screening methods. It currently detects 50 different types of cancer, including lung, ovarian, breast, colon, leukemia, and melanoma.
Next Generation Sequencing
The way it works is that by using next generation sequencing (NGS), Grail is detecting tiny fragments of DNA called cell-free DNA (cfDNA) that have been shed by cancer cells in the bloodstream. All cells shed DNA, healthy cells and cancer cells, so Grail leverages next generation sequencing technology, a giant data library of cancer and human cell DNA, and machine learning to identify those fragments in a blood draw.
As of mid-2022, the cost was just under $1,000 for the Galleri blood test for 50 cancers, not covered by insurance.