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Bezos, Gates Chase Dream of a Blood Test That Detects Cancer

  • Dozens of companies racing to develop `liquid biopsies'
  • Myriad benefits for patients but many hurdles remain
Johns Hopkins Hospital Continues Cancer Research And Treatment
Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images

If cancer is an unwelcome intruder in the body, it’s also a careless vandal, leaving traces of its presence sprinkled throughout the blood. And if you believe Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, therein lies both a medical revolution and a pot of gold.

Scientists have known for decades that tumors shed bits of DNA that end up in the blood. Now, with advances in genetic sequencing technology, startups are beginning to identify those shreds of DNA with so-called “liquid biopsies,” less invasive, less expensive alternatives to tissue samples that can track tumor mutations in cancer patients.