While much of the healthcare industry’s attention over the past two years has been fixated on delivering vaccinations and remedies for Covid, researchers have been quietly focused on another important innovation aimed at effectively detecting and monitoring cancer. Too often, cancer goes undetected until it has progressed to an advanced, less treatable stage. That reality is changing thanks to liquid biopsy, a transformative and non-invasive approach that will help detect cancer at an early stage to optimize treatment selection.
Source: ROBO Global Research
A convergence of genomics and AI technology has made this approach to detecting DNA traces of cancerous cells in the bloodstream feasible, cost-effective, and scalable—a combination that promises to make cancer screening a routine part of preventive medicine.
STEP 1: DETECT
Liquid biopsy is useful at numerous stages of a patient's journey. First, it finds any trace of cancer in the blood. Then, if cancer is detected, genomic profiling and other risk factors are taken into consideration to determine an appropriate treatment. For many cancers, early-stage detection is one of the biggest factors of survivability, quality of life, and costs.
- Illumina (HTEC, THNQ & ROBO: ILMN) is the pioneer and market leader in next-generation DNA sequencing and is seeing rapidly increasing utilization of its instruments in oncology. Illumina is in the process of acquiring GRAIL, a biotech company that has developed the Galleri test to detect multiple types of cancers through a single blood draw, many of which cannot be detected through existing screening techniques.
STEP 2: DETERMINE
Innovation in cancer and disease treatment, such as precision medicine, continues to advance and gain federal approvals. As not all treatments are appropriate for certain genetic makeups and health histories, precision therapies facilitate catered treatment plans dependent on the specific patient. Using a companion diagnostics (CDx) liquid biopsy, physicians can now determine the most effective drug therapy on a patient-to-patient basis and then monitor how each treatment protocol is performing, rather than having to simply “wait and see.”
- Guardant Health (HTEC: GH) has performed more than 300,000 tests and received additional FDA clearance in August 2022 for its Guardant360 CDx—a liquid biopsy test that has the potential to help customize and optimize treatment for cancer patients. The test supports drug selection for non-small cell lung cancer, the most common form of lung cancer today, collectively representing ~82% of cancer deaths worldwide.
STEP 3: MONITOR
For many cancer survivors, the risk of recurrence is high, making it vital to monitor the presence of cancer in the body following treatment. Liquid biopsy supports this effort through a process known as Immunotherapy (IO) Response Monitoring or Minimal Residual Disease (MRD). One of the many benefits of this technology is reducing unnecessary treatments, such as chemotherapy, when MRD is no longer detected.
- Natera (HTEC: NTRA) specializes in this area. Its Signatera patient IO monitoring device checks for the presence of MRD in cancer patients to determine if they are remaining cancer-free throughout immunotherapy.
As innovation across healthcare continues to occur, we believe that investors should look to the companies developing the technologies required to make these pipedreams a reality. There is still much room for transformation in the medical space, which is why we created the ROBO Global Healthcare Technology & Innovation ETF to capture the potential growth to come. Learn more about the HTEC ETF here.
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