NCI has been studying biomarkers of cancer and cancer risk for more than 20 years. One outgrowth of this research has been combining the measures into a way to test for multiple kinds of cancer at the same time. These types of tests, which use blood, urine, or other body fluids, are collectively known as either Multi-Cancer Detection assays (MCDs) or sometimes Multi-Cancer Early Detection assays (MCEDs). NCI uses the term Multi-Cancer Detection (MCD) assays or MCD tests.
MCD tests measure biological substances that cancer cells may shed in blood and other body fluids– such as circulating tumor cells, tumor DNA, and other materials – that may suggest the presence of cancer. Like all screening tests, the MCD assay itself does not diagnose cancer. Depending on which biological substances the MCD test measures, it may screen for several different types of cancer at once.
While many laboratory and small-scale human tests show the tests have promise, there are no large-scale clinical trials showing that the use of any MCD test for cancer screening reduces cancer deaths. Although no MCD tests have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, these tests may be offered by single laboratories under federal regulations known as Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA). To date, no professional medical societies nor the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force have issued recommendations on the use of MCD tests for cancer screening.
News and Events
NIH Launches Research Network to Evaluate Emerging Cancer Screening Technologies
Date Posted: February 21, 2024
Multicancer Detection Assays Promise to Improve Cancer Screening. But Do They Work?
Date Posted: November 1, 2023
Predictive Performance of Cell-Free Nucleic Acid-Based Multi-Cancer Early Detection Tests: A Systematic Review
Date Posted: October 4, 2023
Cancer HealthCast: Emerging Technologies are Showing Promise in Early Cancer Detection
Date Posted: May 30, 2023
NCI Virtual Workshop to Engage Multi-Cancer Detection (MCD) Assay Developers
Date Posted: March 31, 2023