Scientists have developed the personalized approach using genetic testing of a patient’s tumor to find blood samples for hundreds of genetic mutations in tumors of DNA released by cells cancerous in the bloodstream.
The technique is so sensitive that, in some cases, experts have identified a single mutant DNA molecule among a million pieces of DNA. They say this could lead to more specific testing to determine if a patient is likely to relapse after treatment.
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Nitzan Rosenfeld, senior group leader in UK Cancer Research, Cambridge Institute, who led the University of Cambridge team performing the research, said: “Personalized tests that can detect whether the cancer is still present, or find out early if it is back, are currently being tested in clinical trials.
“Even if it may be years away from clinical use, our research shows that anything is possible when we push such approaches to the limit.
“At the moment it is still experimental, but the technology is advancing rapidly, and in the near future, tests with such sensitivity could make a real difference for patients.”
Detecting circulating tumor DNA in blood samples is known as a liquid biopsy and is an essential part of monitoring patients, especially after they have received treatment, which it can show if it has been successful. or if they are at risk of relapse.
However, the approach is dependent on having it high enough, a number of mutant pieces of DNA to detect. If it is too low, it cannot produce a negative result, even if the patients with cancer.
The research, published in the journal Science Translational Medicinesays that by analyzing an individual’s genetic makeup and targeting personnel for mutations, biopsies can become more sensitive.
Until recently, liquid biopsies looked for up to 100 mutations at most, but the new technique looked for hundreds and sometimes thousands of mutations in each blood sample, thereby increasing the chances of success.
The researchers hope the approach will eventually say less blood is needed, allowing for the testing of injections from patients at home and sent to a laboratory for analysis.
This would mean patients travel less often to the hospital for checks and allow them to be tested more often.
Michelle Mitchell, CEO of UK Cancer Research, who funded the research, said: “Liquid biopsies have the potential to revolutionize all aspects of cancer care from the early detection of a personalized treatment and follow-up. ”