Bringing Women Back to Breast Cancer Screening, Safely and Seamlessly

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By Sam Asgarian, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Thrive

A year ago, Thrive Earlier Detection (Thrive) won the BlueCross BlueShield Data Innovation Challenge. Healthbox, a HIMSS solution company, collaborated with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and Blue Health Intelligence® (BHI®) to implement that contest.

As oncologists gather this week for the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS), Healthbox shares recent independent insights from Thrive Earlier Detection (Thrive) about breast cancer screening and detection.

This week at SABCS, researchers, practitioners, patients, payers, and advocates will share ideas and debate approaches about treating breast cancer, one of the most common cancers. A recent BHI study looked at breast cancer rates and trends in women between 40 and 64 years of age using national commercial claims data from 2016 through 2019. This study showed that in 2019, approximately 21 out of every 1,000 females (2.1%) were diagnosed with or being treated for breast cancer.

It is well understood that detecting cancer at an earlier stage leads to better outcomes. We know from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program research that stage I (localized) breast cancer has a 99% five-year survival rate while the five-year survival rate for stage IV (distant) breast cancer drops to a staggering 28%.

The tragic reality is that a widespread delay in screening mammograms, as experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, will only result in later detection of breast cancer and more advanced stages at diagnosis. Delaying breast cancer screening does not slow down the disease’s progression, making it critical that women continue to see their primary care providers (albeit safely) while also monitoring for signs and symptoms of the disease.

In doing the most we can to detect and fight breast cancer, Thrive believes it is key to bring women, who would have otherwise had a mammogram, safely back into clinics as soon as safely possible. Thrive also encourages those who have historically opted out of routine screenings to see a primary care provider and adopt screening guidelines based on their risk factors.

At Thrive, we think about these issues all the time and are dedicated to making cancer screening more innovative and robust. While not yet FDA approved, Thrive is developing a blood test that will screen for multiple types of cancer, including breast cancer. This test would be administered during a routine checkup with a primary care physician. We envision a future where routine preventive care includes this type of blood test for cancer, just as patients are now routinely tested for early stages of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.

Understanding the current state of screening with the tests we have today, like mammograms, is also important to shaping the future. As the winner of the 2019 BlueCross BlueShield Data Innovation Challenge, Thrive has been fortunate to be using real-world data from BHI’s HIPAA-compliant, de-identified National Data Repository to examine trends and patterns of women who do and do not receive routine mammograms.

In particular, Thrive examined BHI’s pre-COVID-19 data (from 2014-2019) to determine how many of the women diagnosed with breast cancer had actually received routine screening prior to their diagnosis. Thrive found that 77% of the breast cancer patients had a recent mammogram (within the past two years). But what about the other 23% of women who did not get a mammogram?

Of note, about half of the 23% had a routine physical exam during that same time period. Thrive believes that if there were additional laboratory screening tests, such as a multi-cancer blood-based test delivered as part of routine care, the breast cancer screening rate could potentially increase from 77% to 88%, helping to detect and treat women much faster. At scale, this would be extremely meaningful to our society as a whole.

Importantly, a multi-cancer blood test is not intended to replace routine screenings like mammography but will be additive and complementary to current recommended screening guidelines. Ultimately, the more real-world and data-driven options we have, the more likely we are to find cancer earlier and improve survival.

 

Thrive Earlier Detection Corp. is a healthcare company focused on incorporating earlier cancer detection into routine medical care to extend and save lives. Thrive is developing CancerSEEK, a liquid biopsy test that is designed to detect many cancers at earlier stages of disease that will serve as the core of its integrated cancer information offering. CancerSEEK is designed to be administered to healthy adults during routine medical care, such as a yearly checkup, alongside existing cancer screening tools. 


Blue Health Intelligence® (BHI®) leverages the power of medical and pharmacy claims data from more than 200 million Americans to deliver insights that empower healthcare organizations to improve patient care, reduce costs, and optimize performance. Blue Health Intelligence (BHI) is a trade name of Health Intelligence Company, LLC, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

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