New ITIF Report: Emerging Technologies That Detect More Cancers at Earlier Stages Need Regulatory Support for Public to Benefit

April 19, 2021

WASHINGTON—Cancer could become the leading cause of death in the United States by 2030, and it is still one of the most difficult illnesses to detect. But a new class of blood-based multi-cancer early detection (MCED) technologies promise to revolutionize the cancer-screening paradigm by marshaling the power of next-generation gene sequencing, artificial intelligence, and big data to dramatically expand the range of detectable cancers while identifying them at earlier stages when they are much more treatable.

Yet for the public to benefit from MCED technologies—and to ensure that U.S. enterprises lead in this fast-emerging, globally competitive field—policymakers need to ensure there exists a supportive regulatory and coverage environment, according to a new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the leading think tank for science and technology policy.

“The United States desperately needs both effective cancer screening and therapeutic options because the individual, social, and economic costs that cancer inflicts are enormous,” said Stephen Ezell, ITIF’s vice president for global innovation policy, who authored the report. “MCED technologies hold the potential, over time, to transform America’s cancer-detection paradigm from one where most cancers are detected when patients present with symptoms to one where cancers can be detected in advance.”

MCED technologies can detect signals for dozens of different types of cancers with a very high rate of accuracy, a low false positive rate, and the ability to accurately connect the cancer to its likely tissue of origin. 

To help this emerging sector, ITIF calls on policymakers to provide a pathway for Medicare to cover MCED tests, while boosting funding for the National Institutes of Health, increasing investment in America’s biomedical STEM talent, and supporting data-driven life-sciences innovation more broadly. To that end, the new report urges Congress to pass the Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act, which creates authority for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to use an evidence-based process to cover blood-based MCED tests.

“Multi-cancer early detection could mark a significant breakthrough in the war against cancer,” Ezell concluded. “The technology has the potetial dramatically improve people’s lives by detecting cancers earlier, which would also potentially reduce the econoimc costs from cancer. Policymakers should embrace this opportunity.”

Read the report.