Around 400 patients were wrongly informed they might have cancer, biotech company says

Around 400 patients were wrongly informed they might have cancer, biotech company says
  • A biotech company said 400 people had been mistakenly informed they might have cancer.

  • Grail Inc said the error resulted from a software issue, which has been resolved.

  • The incident was part of a trial of an early-detection blood test called Galleri.

A cancer test company incorrectly informed around 400 patients that they may have developed cancer, a company said, after there was a software issue with its telemedicine provider.

Grail Inc, an American biotechnology company, developed an early-detection blood test called Galleri, created to identify more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms appear, per Reuters.

According to an internal company document seen by the Financial Times, 408 patients were erroneously sent letters saying the test had detected a sign in their blood potentially indicating cancer.

Grail said telehealth company PWNHealth accidentally sent the letters due to a software issue — that has now been resolved — and that it "was in no way related to or caused by an incorrect Galleri test result," per Reuters.

The company, owned by gene sequencing company Illumina, said it promptly contacted patients after the incident. The patients' health information had not been breached or disclosed, it said on Friday.

The mistake has prompted some concern from life insurers who are trialing the detection test, according to the Financial Times.

The test, which only requires a single drop of blood,  has been called "revolutionary" and "cutting edge" by British and US health officials, per the FT. Other experts have warned about widely instituting the tests before trials prove they are effective in saving lives.

American life insurer Principal subsequently said it would review its relationship with Grail, the FT reported. Insurer MassMutual also said it would pause its pilot trial of the test.

Cancer is still a leading cause of death worldwide despite significant advancements in treatment options, according to Nature journal.

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