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Guardant Seeks FDA Approval for Blood Test That Screens for Colon Cancer

This year may bring good news for those who have been putting off receiving a colonoscopy. People eligible to receive screening—falling between the ages of 45 and 75—may have a new option to detect cancer. Guardant Health is seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a DNA blood test called Shield that can be prescribed by a physician, according to a Jan. 2 USA Today article. The article notes that an FDA advisory committee hearing is set for March, which means the test could receive approval this year. According to a 2022 company-sponsored study in 20,000 adults, the Shield test identified 83% of colon cancer cases across all stages of the disease. The study detected all late-stage cancers, 55% of stage I cancers and 13% of precancerous polyps and other lesions, the article says. Still, the screening test—along with other available tests that analyze stool samples—does not outperform colonoscopy, the gold standard for colon cancer screening. Colonoscopies have a detection rate of 95%. Cologuard, a test that finds high-risk genetic mutations in stool samples, can detect 92% of colon cancers. And fecal immunochemical tests (FIT), which detect blood in stool samples to detect signs of cancer, find 74% of colon cancers based on a single test—although detection rates may increase when the test is performed annually over time, according to the article. Experts recommend screening with FIT be performed annually, and DNA stool tests be performed every one to three years, while colonoscopies are completed every 10 years if no cancer is detected at screening. Nationwide, about two out of five eligible adults were not up to date on colon cancer screenings in 2021, the article notes.

His Sister Chose Medical Aid in Dying and Asked Him to Share Her Story

In a personal essay published Dec. 28 in the New York Times, Steven Petrow provides an account of his sister’s last day with ovarian cancer and her decision to hasten her death with life-ending medications. His sister, Julie, had stage IV ovarian cancer and lived in New Jersey, a state that has passed medical aid in dying (MAID) legislation—which allows people with terminal illness to choose to end their lives by taking a cocktail of life-ending medications. “Julie, a lawyer, had done her research and had told me that the Garden State is one of only 11 jurisdictions (10 states and the District of Columbia) that allow medical aid in dying, also known as death with dignity and end-of-life options,” Petrow writes. “If you live in one of the other 40 states, you must wait for the Grim Reaper to pay a visit, no matter how much pain and suffering that entails. Nor can you pack up and move to New Jersey (or most other states where MAID is legal), because you must be a resident to qualify, which, at best, can take time. Time is usually not readily on hand for those who are terminally ill.”

First Immunotherapy Drug Approved for Nasopharyngeal Cancer

Patients with nasopharyngeal cancer typically receive chemotherapy and radiation treatment as the standard of care. Few options have existed if the cancer doesn’t respond to these treatment mainstays. But promising results from clinical trials conducted in Asia have led to the first Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of an immunotherapy for this type of cancer, which has moved treatment forward for these patients, according to experts who commented in an article published in Cancer Currents, the National Cancer Institute’s blog. Studies have shown the addition of the drug, called Loqtorzi (toripalimab) in combination with chemotherapy, as well as use of the drug alone significantly extended the time it took for cancer to progress and extended overall survival. The FDA approval covers the use of Loqtorzi with chemotherapy as an initial treatment for people with nasopharyngeal cancer that has come back or spread to other parts of the body and on its own for people with recurrent or metastatic nasopharyngeal cancer that has gotten worse on or after standard chemotherapy. The approval should immediately change the way that people with this cancer are treated in this country, Barbara Burtness, a head and neck cancer expert at Yale University who was not involved in the study, said in the article.