WBUR’s Robin Young talks to Dr. Mehmet Toner, of Massachusetts General Hospital, part of a team developing a new blood test that is so sensitive it can detect a single cancer cell among a billion healthy cells. Dr. Toner characterizes the test as a “liquid biopsy” that could someday replace the current invasive, often painful, tissue sampling.
MGH today announced the five-year, $30 million deal with pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson to bring to the experimental test to market. The technology uses a microchip to detect tiny traces of cancer cells in the blood.
The new test is being heralded as potentially “revolutionary,” viewed as a way to track the spread or remission of cancers in patients, and eventually, as a potential screening tool for people who don’t have cancer. Still, Dr. Toner says, at the moment, this remains “a very early technology.”