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How Grail helps the early detection of cancer to reduce mortality rates

What is Grail?

Every year, more than 10 million lives are lost due to cancer. The increasing rate of cancer patients can be a result of our changing lifestyle, unhealthy food habits etc. When cancer is detected at later stages,  the mortality rates are very high. Even if they do survive, not many people have a strong will and mental health to strive through the side effects of medication and surgeries. However, if detected early, cancer can be treated and cured, just like any other diseases. Grail is a healthcare startup that has developed a strategy for the early detection of cancer.

Grail (1) was founded by Jeff Huber and launched by Illumina in January 2016. Illumina is a company from San Diego and a global leader in DNA sequencing technology. Illumina was backed up by ARCH Venture Partners and Sutter Hill Ventures, and Bezos Expeditions. Jeff Bezos, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Amazon and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates were also a part of this grand launch. The headquarters of Grail is situated in Menlo Park, CA and they also have branches in Washington D.C., North Carolina, and the United Kingdom.

Grail plans to develop a blood test that will help to detect all sorts of cancer in the earliest stages. By combining the best kind of DNA sequencing along with top-notch technology, they hope to develop a highly accurate test. Grail plans to perfect it using highly advanced computer science, data science and more profound comprehension of cancer biology. It will be able to diagnose it in patients who have not even started showing the symptoms. Their mission is to reduce the rate of death caused by cancer using this technology.

The team and birth of Grail


Jeff Huber, the founding CEO and Vice Chairman of Grail, had a reputable position at Google for more than 13 years. He has been a Senior Vice President at Google and has contributed to many services of Google like the Google Apps, Google Maps, Google Ads etc. The current Chief Executive Officer of Grail is Hans Bishop, who has an expertise of more than 30 years in the biotechnology industry. The Chairman of Grail, Jay Flatley, is also the executive chairman of Illumina. Other members of the board of Grail are Robert Nelsen and Bill Rastetter.

The team of Grail uses Illumina’s quality sequencing advances to concentrate on ctDNA, which is an immediate estimation of malignant growth DNA, instead of an aberrant proportion of the impacts of the disease. Grail believes that this method will improve accuracy and particularity by improved signal-to-noise proportion and more transformations recognised per test. Different organisations have created “fluid biopsy” tests that involve the utilisations of blood to identify diseases rather than, or as an enhancement to, regular biopsies. Each clinical demonstrative research centre in the world can be a market rival to Grail. All that this competition relies on is the dependability and moderateness of whatever item Grail creates.

How does Grail work?

The Grail early detection of cancer starts by running DNA sequencing on standard blood tests. It creates many gigabytes of information per individual, mainly the notable A-T-G-C nucleotides. In addition, they also check the methylation status, which shows whether a specific DNA site’s capacity is turned on or off. This would indicate whether or not it suppresses gene translation.

Most of the mainstream DNA screenings for the risks of cancer such as BRCA1 take into account only one gene site. Nevertheless, the technical team of Grail has found it that malignant growth may appear as a large number of methylation changes. This provides a lot more signs to program the Artificial Intelligence calculations to discover cancer in cells as opposed to the observation of just one site. There are 30 million methylation locations in the whole human genome on 100,000 DNA parts. Grail takes a gander at a million of them to carry out the test.

Grail uses state of the art Artificial Intelligence to discover structures that are spread across all these data, which is something the natural eye could never observe. On the practical side of things, this is not a casual customer service examination of your genome that says you may have, for example, a 68% possibility of getting malignant growth. Grail works on identifying the signs of real cancerous cells in your blood. As indicated by detailed information provided in the Annals of Oncology, the test can discover 50 unique kinds of cancer which are more than half of what we know till date.

The relevance of Grail

The most significant blessing of Grail is that it can find cancer well before symptoms show up. When one is able to detect cancer in Stage I or even sooner, the therapies are very cheap and effective. In the case of patients who get diagnosed with cancer only in stage IV, the survival rates are one in five. Grail will be able to increase these rates to 9 in 10 by helping people detect it as early as possible. If Grail can begin a full-fledged service soon, it will be a massive game-changer.

Even though we have many cancer diagnostic tests today, most of them are not efficient enough. They have a tendency to give too many wrong warnings.  In the case of biennial mammograms, the mainstream cancer tests have a false positive rate of around 11 per cent among patients who are in the age group between 55 to 79. The false-positive rate is six per cent in case of tests to detect cervical cancer.  For a person who regularly smokes, the false-positive ratio of a chest CT scan is 13 per cent. This rate can be as huge as 75 per cent in case of a PSA prostate test. The inaccuracy of such tests tends to reduce the patient’s confidence in them.

On the other hand, 8 in 10 cancer deaths are a result of undetected malignant growth. This calls for a test that is accurate in its findings. The false-positive rate of Grail DNA test is much less than one per cent. The analysis is more than 93 per cent precise in recognising the sort of cancer in the body. As already mentioned, if cancerous cells can be discovered early, treatment is a lot simpler. Medicines with much lesser side effects can help to treat cancer effectively in such cases. The services of Grail are a great way to improve the health care system.  Consequently, it can save the lives of many people around the world.