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Blood Test Could Match Cancer Patients to Best Treatments

Results provide ‘running commentary’ on tumors’ treatment response

Scientists in the United Kingdom have developed a blood test that could help pair cancer patients with the most suitable therapy for their disease and then track the tumor’s progress to see whether the treatment is working, according to new findings published in Clinical Cancer Research.

Using the blood test throughout a patient’s treatment gives a “running commentary” on what is happening to tumors –– giving scientists the lowdown on how well the treatment is working, how the cancer is changing, and whether it is becoming resistant to treatment. It is the first time a blood test has been used in this way during clinical trials of targeted drugs, proving that the technique can monitor cancer simply and quickly.

Scientists and clinicians at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, and at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust looked at approximately 160 blood samples from 39 cancer patients with different types of late-stage cancer.

The test filters out tumor DNA from a patient’s blood to be analyzed for genetic defects. Based on the results, researchers can match the faults to targeted cancer treatments, which then home in on cancer cells carrying these mistakes.

Tumor biopsy samples are usually taken only at the beginning of treatment, meaning that doctors may be using out-of-date information about how the genetic makeup of a patient’s disease is changing in response to treatment. But the new approach could provide real-time updates, as well as help doctors identify patients who are suitable for clinical trials of new drugs, according to the authors.

Study leader Professor Johann de Bono said: “Tumors and the gene faults that drive them are unique and constantly evolving. It’s crucial that we understand these changes so doctors can choose the best treatments for each patient.

“We need to do more research, but this approach could have a huge impact on how we make treatment decisions, also potentially making diagnosis and treatment quicker, cheaper, and less invasive.”

Source: Institute of Cancer Research; October 15, 2015.

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