MBJ Power Breakfast with Kevin ConroyMadison cancer diagnostics company Exact Sciences Corp. is working on a test that would screen for multiple types of cancer with a single blood draw. It’s aiming to help people catch early-stage cancer so it can be treated quickly.

The test passed proof of concept in a 10,000-person study, Exact Sciences CEO, president and chairman Kevin Conroy said Friday at the Milwaukee Business Journal Power Breakfast event. It will be designed to detect the deadliest cancers but could detect dozens of early-stage cancers, Conroy said.

“We won’t know how many cancers we’ll find until we go out there and study a really large population,” Conroy said.

The company is conducting two more clinical studies later this year and early next year. It’s also planning an 80,000-patient prospective clinical trial to start next year, which it expects will include participation from Ascension, Conroy said. That trial will take a couple of years, Conroy said.

For patients who are willing to be part of the testing process, the multi-cancer screen may be available as early as next year through a laboratory-developed test, Conroy said.

The vision for Exact Science’s multi-cancer blood test traces back to David Ahlquist, a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic who partnered with the company to develop and commercialize the Cologuard at-home stool sample test for colorectal cancer. Ahlquist brought up the idea for a multi-cancer test when he first met Conroy in 2009.

“We don’t screen people, we screen individual organs,” Conroy said. “Dave made the case, ‘What we should do is one blood draw, all cancers.'”

In January, Exact Sciences finalized its acquisition of Thrive Earlier Detection Corp. in a $2.15 billion deal to accelerate its push to commercialize a blood-based multi-cancer test. Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Thrive had begun developing an early-stage screening test called CancerSEEK, which detected 10 different types of early-stage cancer in its first patient study, according to an October press release from Exact Sciences.

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