The SYMPLIFY study is the first large-scale evaluation of a multi-cancer early detection (MCED) test in individuals who presented to their GP for diagnostic follow-up for suspected cancer.
The study enrolled 6,238 patients, aged 18 and older, in England and Wales who were referred for urgent imaging, endoscopy or other diagnostic modalities to investigate symptoms suspicious for possible gynaecological, lung, lower GI or upper GI cancer, or who had presented with non-specific symptoms. Participants provided a blood sample, from which DNA was isolated and tested. The most commonly reported symptoms leading to referral were unexpected weight loss (24.1%), change in bowel habit (22.0%), post-menopausal bleeding (16.0%), rectal bleeding (15.7%), abdominal pain (14.5%), pain (10.6%), difficulty swallowing (8.8%) and anaemia (7.1%).
‘Earlier cancer detection and subsequent intervention has the potential to greatly improve patient outcomes. Most patients diagnosed with cancer first see a primary care physician for the investigation of symptoms suggestive of cancer, like weight loss, anaemia, or abdominal pain, which can be complex as there are multiple potential causes. New tools that can both expedite cancer diagnosis and potentially avoid invasive and costly investigations are needed to more accurately triage patients who present with non-specific cancer symptoms,’ said Brian D. Nicholson, Associate Professor at Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, and co-lead investigator of the study. ‘The high overall specificity, positive predictive value, and accuracy of the cancer signal detected and cancer signal origin prediction that was reported across cancer types in the SYMPLIFY study indicate that a positive MCED test could be used to confirm that symptomatic patients should be evaluated for cancer before pursuing other diagnoses.’