AI-enabled early cancer detection – Freenome

by Precious Cyprain
4 mins read
Freenome - early cancer detection

Freenome is a biotechnology company that creates next-generation blood diagnostic tests that help detect cancer in its early and most curable stages. Freenome has existed since 2014 with the mission to develop the tools needed to enable people to prevent, detect and treat their diseases. The company is based in South Francisco, California and was founded by Riley Ennis, Gabe Otte and Charlie Roberts.  

This cancer detection is achieved with its multiomics platform, computational biology and machine learning integration. Freenome renders early cancer detection to help fight the disease when it is still most treatable. A routine blood draw, genetic analysis, and proprietary algorithm method are used to diagnose early-stage cancer.  

Their technology works based on the genetic material that immune cells leave behind after they die in the presence of free-floating cancer cells and also the general response of the immune cells to these cancer cells. Identifying the patterns of this genetic material makes it possible to determine the presence of early-stage cancer. Research is also ongoing on the development of new drugs through this signature material and the ability to determine the right interventions.  

Artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques and several technologies are utilized with the platform to analyze the protein, DNA, RNA and other necessary biomarkers in the blood sample in order to detect cancer. This is achieved because cancer tumors release DNA, RNA and proteins into the bloodstream which are detectable through the blood test.  

In 2020, Freenome initiated its trial for the detection and prevention of colorectal cancer in its early stage with the use of a multiomics blood test. Freenome’s platform consists of three components including: 

  • Multiomics: to extensively analyze blood samples for tumor-derived and non-tumor-derived biomarkers. 
  • Machine learning: to recognize cancer patterns. 
  • Real-time data feedback loop: To better improve the tests and results. 

How Freenome analyze tumor signals  

Multiomics is the extensive examination of blood by utilizing several levels of biology which empowers analyzing both tumor-derived and non-tumor-derived signals. The detection of the earliest signs of cancer is enabled through this comprehensive analysis. Some of the Omics utilized include; 

  • Proteomics: This involves the analysis of proteins that indicate the body’s advanced responses to cancer. 
  • Genomics: The examination of cell-free DNA shedding from cells in the body, including from tumor cells. 
  • Transcriptomics: Examining how our body responds to the developing tumor by the analysis of RNA. 
  • Other Omics include the analysis of various other biomarkers of the tumor cells in the blood 

The major processes involved in the early cancer detection include: 

  • Collection of blood sample 
  • Running multiomics analysis  
  • Machine learning classifier  
  • Obtaining results  

The various data gotten from the analysis are used by Freenome to discover the complex patterns of cancer through the use of progressive computational procedures and machine learning.  

In detecting the early stages of cancer, the tumor signals differ according to the cancer stage and cancer type; 

By cancer type:  

The biological markers that indicate the presence of different types of cancer vary, which means for over 100 cancer types available, there’s a unique biological signal that indicates the presence of each. For example, the order of magnitude of DNA shed into the blood by different cancer types varies. Therefore, putting the focus on only cell-free DNA would most probably not be enough to detect a broad range of cancers in their earliest stages.  

By cancer stage: 

In similarity with the first, the biological signals that indicate the different stages of cancer also vary. For the late stages of cancer, tumor-derived signals like DNA that is shed by the tumor, are typically more abundant than in the early stages. But non-tumor-derived signals like the proteins from the tissues surrounding the tumors or from the immune system, usually indicate the early stages of cancer.  

Benefits of Freenome early cancer detection tests 

Detecting cancer at its early stage saves life as this is when the cancer is most treatable. Freenome has provided these accessible blood tests to help people get cancer screenings to ensure their well-being. Freenome offers benefits including;  

  • Detection of early cancer stages via routine blood screenings 
  • Increased availability of cancer screenings which leads to an increased screening adherence  
  • Higher survival rate due to the early detection of cancer at its most curable level.

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