Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Cancer screening blood test Photo: Jacqueline Larma / AP

A spate of recent studies on liquid biopsies for cancer suggests researchers are making progress toward their ultimate goal of non-invasive diagnostics for evaluating how well a cancer treatment is working and early detection of the disease. However, the tests remain in early stages of development and still face doubts from some experts as to whether they can overcome issues like high rates of false negatives or positives.

"This is the wave of the future...The question is: How do we do it better? There are lots of directions it can move in," Eric Topol, genomics scientist and director of The Scripps Research Institute not involved in these studies, told Axios.

Early cancer detection study: A Johns Hopkins team announced Wednesday they have developed a blood test that spots tiny bits of DNA in the blood and, in the study, used them to accurately identified more than half of 138 people with relatively early stages of colorectal, breast, lung, and ovarian cancers.

Other recent research includes:

Johns Hopkins' study: The team said they developed a new approach that can distinguish between the DNA shed from tumors and other altered DNA that occurs naturally in humans but is often mistaken for cancer biomarkers. The technique uses "deep sequencing," which reads 30,000 times each chemical code in more than 80,930 base pairs of DNA fragments.

They used it to find and test DNA in the blood of 44 healthy patients and 200 cancer patients, and were able to detect an average of 62% of stage I and II cancers in the participants. Specifically, they found stage I and II cancers in: 71% of colorectal patients, 59% of breast cancer patients, 59% of lung cancer patients, and 68% of ovarian cancer patients. While it is difficult to find ovarian cancer patients in stage I or II (it tends to be found in stage III or beyond), the team said it canvassed various institutions to obtain the samples.

"To our knowledge this is the first reported study where such an approach has used these steps to achieve direct detection of early stage cancers," study author Jillian Phallen told Axios via email.

And, importantly: When the researchers analyzed the blood of the 44 healthy volunteers, their tests showed very little false positives (roughly one false positive per 3.3 million letters of DNA sequenced.)

Another perspective: Theodora Ross, an oncologist at the UT Southwestern Medical Center who did not participate in any of these studies, told Axios it is too early to believe the hype surrounding liquid biopsies. She says "theoretically" the tests could be a great tool that would allow doctors to avoid tissue biopsies and to detect cancers earlier but there has not yet been any large verification studies that prove these tests will work.

Yes, but: Ross said the test developed at Johns Hopkins appears to be more sensitive than some other liquid biopsies, which was confirmed by the lower error rate in testing the healthy subjects. If this could be validated by larger studies, Ross said, this would help ease one of her main concerns about liquid biopsies:

  • the prevalence of false positives (which may cause the patient to unnecessarily undergo severe radiation and chemo treatments or simply suffer with the knowledge of an incurable cancer longer)
  • false negatives (which may allow the cancer to grow undetected).

Going forward: Topol agreed validation studies are needed for these studies, with the hope that eventually scientists will achieve more accurate results with lower costs. "There is no perfect study...but this is a step in the right direction," he said.

Go deeper

Biden extends mask mandates for travelers into 2022

President Biden delivers remarks at the White House on Dec. 1. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

President Biden will announce new testing protocols for international travelers on Thursday and extend masking requirements through March as the U.S. prepares to fight the Omicron variant this winter, according to senior administration officials.

Driving the news: The U.S. will tighten pre-departure testing protocols starting early next week by requiring all inbound international travelers to take COVID-19 tests within one day of their departure rather than three.

31 mins ago - Health

America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The race to figure out just how dangerous the Omicron variant is will likely be a global effort, but some experts are skeptical that the U.S. will play a dominant role.

Why it matters: The CDC has repeatedly come under fire for inadequate data collection throughout the pandemic — and figuring out how to respond to Omicron requires a lot of data that doesn't currently exist.

U.S. faces urgent anti-hacker crisis

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The Biden administration is accelerating efforts to fill nearly 600,000 vacant cybersecurity positions in the public and private sectors bogging down efforts to protect digital infrastructure.

Why it matters: Following a deluge of ransomware attacks targeting critical government and corporate infrastructure this year, clogs in the talent pipeline are leaving federal, cash-strapped local governments and Big Business even more susceptible to hacking.