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Pathway launches 'liquid biopsy' to find cancer in healthy people

CHICAGO, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Pathway Genomics, a company known for pushing the boundaries of direct-to-consumer genetic testing, on Thursday will launch a cancer screening test designed to detect bits of cancer DNA in the blood of otherwise healthy people.

The test represents a first in the rapidly developing field of "liquid biopsies," which use gene sequencing technology to screen blood samples for trace amounts of DNA associated with different cancers.

Several cancer diagnostic companies have been working on the tests, a field that has recently been joined by makers of DNA blood screening tests for fetal abnormalities after the tests detected early cancers in expectant mothers. Cowen & Co estimates that use of DNA blood tests for cancer screening will exceed $10 billion a year by the end of the decade.

But the move by Pathway, a privately owned maker of genetic tests ranging from cancer risk and heart health to drug response, underscores a growing debate over how much genetic information should be made available to healthy people if it is not yet clear how it can improve their health.

The company has already run into trouble on a similar issue. In 2010, Walgreens pulled Pathway's genetic testing kits from its pharmacies after U.S. health regulators warned patients might take action without understanding the results.

Several oncology experts said liquid biopsy tests like Pathway's, while exciting, still require...


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