Mark has been a fly-in, fly-out construction worker for years.
The lifestyle is an acquired taste. The constant plane flights and nights away from loved ones take their toll.
Eight years ago, between jobs, Mark woke one morning rubbing his stomach. There was a lump just below his right ribs.
Not too long after, doctors found something through an ultrasound. They sent off some samples for a biopsy.
‘It was a nervous wait for the results,’ Mark later said.
In the days that followed, Mark finally got a call. It was the oncologist. They had a long conversation, but the only word Mark could remember was pancreatic cancer.
Due to the size and location of the tumour, the doctors decided it was inoperable.
Instead, Mark would receive injections and a few chemotherapy tablets as back up. Luckily the side effects were minimal. Some nausea and skin rashes.
Initially, the treatment was working. The tumour has reduced significantly in size. But last year, Mark was shattered to find out his tumour had started growing again.
It was time to perform a Whipple procedure, the doctor told Mark. This would involve removing the head of the pancreas and the first part of the small intestines. The operation took 12 hours. Mark was home within a few days after surgery.
And just four months later, he got the best news of all. His oncologist told him he was cancer free.
Catching cancer early
Many have had a similar experience to Mark. But others are far luckier. They caught cancer at far earlier stages and were able to kick the disease within months.
Stage 0 for example is cancer in situ, meaning ‘in place’. At Stage 0, cancers are still in the place they started. Any mutated cells haven’t spread to nearby tissue.
As cancer.net explains:
‘This stage of cancer is often highly curable, usually by removing the entire tumour with surgery.’
Even Stage I is manageable. At Stage I the cancer or tumour still hasn’t grown deeply into nearby tissue. These cancerous cells also haven’t spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body either.
Using the example of breast cancer, in Stage I the cancer ‘is evident, but it is contained to only the area where the first abnormal cells began to develop. The breast cancer has been detected in the early stages and can be very effectively treated,’ the National Breast Cancer Foundation writes.
Source: National Breast Cancer Foundation
‘Similar to stage 0, breast cancer at this stage is very treatable and survivable. When breast cancer is detected early, and is in the localized stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 100%.’
Once we get into Stage II, treatment starts to become more aggressive. The obvious correlation here is to promote earlier detection.
In a 2017 paper, research prescribed exactly that. Looking at rising cancer mortality rates in China, the researchers concluded:
‘The patterns and trends of cancer epidemics had been changing in recent decades in Chinese population. Increased cancer incidence and mortality rates, particularly lung cancer, were consistently reported from the studies in urban and rural areas and in national and regional levels.
‘The promotion strategies for early detection of cancer have been enhanced with promising advances. Follow-up and evaluation studies should be strengthened and focused on effective screening frameworks and techniques to reach the target populations and individuals.’
In fact, according to Dr Bert Vogelstein of Johns Hopkins:
‘It’s fair to say that if you could detect all cancers while they are still localized, you could diminish cancer deaths by 90%.’
And there’s one tiny biotech developing a simple catch-all detection method.
Fighting cancer at all stages
It’s a blood test that can detect 15 different types of cancers.
How good is this test?
In a recent study, it had a Sensitivity score of 92%. This means it was correct 92% of the time when it said someone had cancer.
And it also has a Specificity score of 92%. This means the system was correct 92% of the time when it said a patient does not have cancer.
To see how good this is, let’s look at a few detection methods we use today.
The Low Dose Computed Tomography lung cancer screen has a Sensitivity of 93%, but a Specificity of 73%. The Prostate Specific Antigen test has a Sensitivity of 21% and a Specificity of 91%. The Mammography breast cancer screen has a Sensitivity of 68% and a Specificity of 75%.
The latter is considered the gold standard for breast cancer screening.
If this tiny biotech can perfect their diagnostic cancer blood test, they could potentially save millions of lives and capture a slice of the US$142 billion global cancer diagnostics market.
But what about patients with very late stages of cancer? Is there still hope for them too?
The same company developing the blood test above is also trailing a new type of therapy. Instead of treating the disease, this revolutionary therapy super charged a patient’s immunity.
As a result, their immune system hunts and kills any cancerous cells within the body. And with regulatory approval around the corner, it might not be too long before you start hearing their name in the news.
If you want to read more about this ground-breaking research and potentially profit 2,422%, click here.
Editor, Markets & Money