MCED has potential to revolutionize cancer screening, Swiss Re reports

MCED has potential to revolutionize cancer screening, Swiss Re reports

MCED has potential to revolutionize cancer screening, Swiss Re reports | Insurance Business Asia


MCED has potential to revolutionize cancer screening, Swiss Re reports

The reinsurer also urges caution despite its potential benefits


Kenneth Araullo

Swiss Re Institute has released a new report titled “Multi-Cancer Early Detection: cancer screening beyond today’s boundaries,” which delves into the future implications of Multi-cancer early detection blood tests (MCEDs) for both patients and insurers.

MCEDs represent a significant advancement in cancer detection, Swiss Re said, as it offers the possibility of comprehensive screening for multiple cancers through a single, minimally invasive blood test. This technology could revolutionize early cancer detection, potentially improving survival rates and reducing the economic impact of late-stage treatments.

Swiss Re head of global L&H underwriting, claims & R&D Natalie Kelly commented on the promise of MCEDs in detecting cancers at earlier stages, which could enhance survival rates and diminish the need for costly late-stage treatments.

“However, given this early stage of their development, we need to carefully examine their potential, their risks, and the implications for insurers,” Kelly said.

MCED blood tests, a type of liquid biopsy, can detect cancer biomarkers from a single blood sample. They are particularly effective in identifying cancers at an earlier stage, potentially before symptoms manifest. Research suggests that early diagnosis can significantly improve five-year survival rates for some cancers by 15-25% if detected before spreading.

Additionally, early detection could lead to reduced treatment costs. Cancer Research UK found that treating certain cancers at stages 3 and 4 costs nearly two and a half times more than treating them at stages 1 and 2.

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Caution amid potential benefits

Despite the potential benefits, Swiss Re Institute advises caution. The current lack of real-world evidence and the need for clinical validation of MCED tests prior to treatment initiation pose challenges. There is also concern about the distress caused by inaccurate test results.

Swiss Re Institute’s report evaluates eight MCED tests at various development stages, including some in clinical trials. It reveals significant differences in the ability of these tests to detect specific cancers early and accurately. The report suggests that MCED tests could become a complementary tool to existing practices within a decade.

For insurers, the widespread adoption of MCED tests could have considerable implications for life and health insurance products, including life, critical illness, and medical reimbursement covers. The report highlights the need for insurers to assess the potential impact of MCED tests on underwriting guidelines, pricing, claims processing, product design, and regulatory compliance.

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