New technologies under development can detect multiple components of a growing cancer, such as circulating tumor cells, tumor DNA, and other analytes, in blood or other body fluids. These tests look for circulating tumor cells, tumor DNA, and other substances that might be present in several different types of cancer. Some of these tests under development are trying to detect cancers at early stages. These kinds of tests are collectively known as either Multi-Cancer Detection assays (MCDs) or sometimes Multi-Cancer Early Detection assays (MCEDs), or M.C.E.D.s (MCEDs). NCI uses Multi-Cancer Detection (MCD) assays.
The idea of testing for multiple types of cancers simultaneously with a single MCD test is a new and exciting concept for cancer screening. However, there are many unanswered questions about using this very different kind of test, including:
- what additional testing is necessary and after a positive test to confirm the presence of a cancer;
- what types of cancers are detected by an MCD test and at what stages are these cancers;
- which people will derive a net benefit from MCD screening; and
- whether MCD tests can be successfully implemented in real-world practice.
This webpage is a gateway to DCP efforts surrounding study of MCD assays for cancer screening.
Update on National Cancer Institute (NCI) Vanguard Study on Multi-Cancer Detection
As a central component of the Cancer Moonshot, the National Cancer Institute is soon to launch a new research network to study cancer screening, including evaluating the effectiveness new blood tests for the detection of one or more cancers to prevent cancer-related deaths. If found to be useful, these type of tests provide the opportunity for less invasive tools for the early detection of cancer. NCI will begin enrolling 24,000 healthy people age 45- 70 in 2024 to lay the groundwork for the later, larger study that will enroll up to 225,000 people. The vanguard study is being funded in part by 21st Century Cures Act Cancer Moonshot funds.
Estimated Timeline for Cancer Screening Research Network and Vanguard Study
Late October—Early November 2022: Release Requests for Funding Applications (RFAs) for the three main components of the Cancer Screening Research Network (CSRN): one Coordinating and Communications Center (CCC), one Data Management and Statistical Center (DMSC), and 10-15 ACCrual, Enrollment and Screening Sites (ACCESS).
Applications are Due 90 days after release of the RFAs, followed by at least 8 months for scientific reviews of the applications.
We hope to fund the RFAs in Fiscal Year 2024 (October 2023-September 2024) and set up the network to begin the Vanguard Study as their first project.
MCD Research Teams
The National Cancer Institute is actively working with researchers across the Institute and at other federal agencies to investigate all aspects of multi-cancer detection tests. Learn more about how these teams are addressing different, but related aspects of the science:
Questions and Answers
Cancer Screening with Multi-Cancer Detection (MCD) Tests
- What are Cancer Screening Tests?
- What Kind of Tests are Used to Screen for Cancer?
- Does a Positive Cancer Screening Test Mean I Have Cancer?
- What are Multi-Cancer Detection (MCD) Tests?
- And more...
NCI Board of Scientific Advisors Presentation
June 15, 2022
On Wednesday, June 15, 2022, the Division of Cancer Prevention is presenting a request to fund an RFA entitled “Cancer Screening Network to Evaluate Multi-Cancer Detection Assays for Clinical Utility in Cancer Screening.”
Date: Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Time: 2:45 p.m. ET
Meeting agenda (PDF, 211 KB)
View the slides (
Recording of presentation available at https://videocast.nih.gov/watch=45621&start=6796
NCI sponsors this Academic/Industrial Partnership program designed to advance and validate Liquid Biopsy technologies specifically targeted for early stage cancer detection. Liquid biopsy uses body fluids such as blood, urine, saliva, stool, and sputum from patients suspected to have early stage cancer as well as those at high risk of developing cancer. The Precompetitive Collaboration on Liquid Biopsy for Early Cancer Assessment Consortium is also working on methods to distinguish cancer from benign disease; or aggressive from indolent cancers.
Samples from People With and Without Cancer Could Help Verify Future Blood Tests to Detect Cancer Early
Recruitment has begun for a clinical study that investigators hope will move “liquid biopsy” technology closer to its still-distant goal: a single blood test for the early detection of cancer. Collectively known as multi-cancer early detection (MCED) assays or sometimes multi-cancer detection assays (MCD), this new advancing technology is a promising concept for cancer screening, but there are...
Screening for Many Cancers with One Test: Uncertainty Abounds
One of the exciting areas of cancer prevention research is the development of noninvasive tests that may have the potential to easily and accurately determine whether and where in the body a person has early-stage cancer. And not just for a single cancer but for many cancers. Over the last several years, remarkable progress has been made on this front.
‘The complexities are staggering.’ U.S. plans huge trial of blood tests for multiple cancers
National Cancer Institute prevention chief discusses steps toward largest U.S. cancer screening trial ever.