New cancer detection technology available for Phoenix first responders

Oct 13, 2021, 4:45 AM
(KTAR News photo/Ali Vetnar)...
(KTAR News photo/Ali Vetnar)
(KTAR News photo/Ali Vetnar)

PHOENIX – A groundbreaking blood test is now available to help Phoenix first responders detect cancer.

Key players from the city of Phoenix, alongside the doctors at Vincere Cancer Center in Scottsdale, made the announcement Tuesday morning.

The test, called Galleri, is a simple blood draw that can detect a single cancer signal and where cancer originates.

The goal of the test is to detect occupational cancer early, as it’s currently the leading cause of death among firefighters.

Vershalee Shukla, Vincere Cancer Center’s doctor, has led the effort of catching cancer early with Valley firefighters since 2018.

Her office offers free cancer screenings for Phoenix first responders. She believes they have another tool in their tool belt with the new blood test.

“The beauty of this test is it’s 99.5% specificity, so it means the false positivity rate is 0.05%,” Dr. Shukla told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday. “So if it says you have a cancer signal – you have a cancer signal.”

The new technology can also detect where the cancer is coming from in the body roughly 90% of the time.

Dr. Shukla believes that feature is a game-changer for young first responders who are exposed to carcinogens in their high-risk jobs. As a result, many contract cancer where it’s tough to find.

First responders with this new test have the opportunity to find nearly 50 cancers – many of which have no current test.

“It’s so important because of the 12 of the deadliest cancers which are responsible for two-thirds of all cancer deaths have no screening modality,” Shukla said.

Phoenix Fire Chief Kara Kalkbrenner at the press conference on Tuesday spoke about her own experience with occupational cancer and encouraged others to get screened for the disease.

Kalkbrenner has advocated for better cancer prevention and protection for firefighters throughout her time as fire chief.

The city of Phoenix has led the effort in considering cancer deaths as a line-of-duty death following firefighters Brian Beck and Rick Telles succumbing to the disease in 2019.

Vincere Cancer Center since 2018 has screened over 900 first responders in Phoenix, 75 of which were diagnosed with early stages of cancer that were treatable.

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New cancer detection technology available for Phoenix first responders