San Antonio will soon get a cancer blood test clinical trial

The new blood test can find 50 types of cancer at once, health officials say

Anchor and reporter Rosenda Rios’s family, as well as her KSAT family, were devastated when she died of uterine cancer last year.

Her sudden passing left some wondering what could have been done to find it sooner, and therefore treated sooner.

Her husband Larry Burns wonders too, but acknowledges that Rios was not very anxious to get regular screenings.

“I don’t know that I could say it would have saved her life, but I think it would have prolonged her life because she could have caught it sooner,” he said.

He is intrigued by the Mayo Clinic’s announcement that it is moving forward with the Galleri blood test that has shown accuracy in finding 50 different kinds of cancer with a simple blood draw.

“If it’s just a blood test, there’s a lot more people, and even Rosenda would have said, ‘Yeah, I’ll go do that, that that I can deal with,’” said Burns.

He believes that screenings that require a visit to a clinic or a medical lab is a deterrent for some patients. He is now a big supporter of getting screened.

“I feel like you’re doing something that will probably save your life and when you hesitate, when you don’t take action on it at an early stage, it may not be reversible at that point,” said Burns.

He questions whether that would have been the case in Rosenda’s case since it’s now apparent that she had a family history of similar cancers.

That fact would have made her a perfect candidate for the Galleri test. Those with a family history of cancer, or those who know they are at risk from behaviors such as smoking, would likely be first in line to try it.

For San Antonians, we may get our chance sooner than most cities. UT Health’s Mays Cancer Center and MD Anderson San Antonio have agreed to hold clinical trials for the test and will soon be looking for patients.

Dr. Ruben Mesa, executive director of  the Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, is excited to be a part of the national trials. He says candidates will have two vials of blood drawn that will be sent to a lab. It is screened for evidence in the blood of 50 different types of cancer.

“The tests can both detect (number) one is their cancer DNA in the bloodstream. And (number) two, and this is very important, where is it potentially coming from?” said Mesa. His colleagues at the Mayo Clinic reported the results of the Annals of Oncology.

“They looked at well over 6,000 patients who they felt might be at higher risk of developing cancer, then they looked in the blood, and they were able to identify cancers in a subset of 30 people,” he said.

The significance of that subset is that there were no other signs of cancer, beyond what showed up in their blood sample.

Catching cancer that early is a huge goal at MD Anderson and the Mays Cancer Center, so they will be soon recruiting local volunteers to begin the next clinical trial in the hope of getting FDA approval for Galleri.

“Individuals that are at higher risk may well benefit from these tests, but probably in the ideal world in the setting of a clinical trial we can learn best, know how to use them, and again, really how to catch cancer in its earliest setting,” said Mesa.

He also thinks the clinical setting is best because if cancer is detected, immediate treatment is available. Mesa noted that the Galleri test is intended as a compliment to regular cancer screenings such as colonoscopies and mammograms, not a replacement.

If you are interested in getting involved in the upcoming clinical trials, you can get more information through the UT Health MD Anderson website here, or call 210-450-1000.

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About the Author:

Ursula Pari has been a staple of television news in Texas at KSAT 12 News since 1996 and a veteran of broadcast journalism for more than 30 years.