A new way of detecting cancer in the blood of affected patients could potentially hold up to 10 times more sensitivity in comparison to previous traditional methods. This was suggested by the latest research led by a team of researchers at the University of Cambridge.
In the future years, this plan and others derived from this method could potentially cause further accuracy in tests regarding the determination of any possibility of relapse after the end of the treatment. Furthermore, this could also potentially lead to the future of home testing with the use of simple pinprick blood tests to observe cancer patients.
Cancer Research UK funded this research and issued the study in the journal, Science Translational Medicine.
This method uses an individualized genetic examination of a patient’s tumor. This examines blood samples for several diverse generic mutations in the tumor DNA (ctDNA). This is the DNA that the cancer cells discharge into the bloodstream.
With the incorporation of newer methods for the analysis of this data for the elimination of background noise and improvement of the signal, the researchers were able to reach a certain level of sensitivity.
This level of sensitivity could potentially detect one mutant DNA molecule from the same of over million DNA molecules. This raises the sensitivity to up to 10 times in comparison to conventional methods.
Dr. Nitzan Rosenfeld is the superior group head at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute. He also supervised the research team that conducted this study. Dr. Nitzan said hat individualized tests that could detect the presence of cancer cells, whether it’s new or a relapse, are now being used in clinical trials.
This might be a few years away from clinical application. However, the research suggested new possibilities with higher levels of sensitivity demonstrated. This shows the room for significant improvement in the sensitivity levels in examinations for ctDNA.
While this is still at an experimental stage, the advancement in technology along with future testing shows the impact that this level of sensitivity could have on patients.
Liquid biopsy and its potential advancement
Liquid biopsy is a current method that allows doctors to examine the patient’s cancer without any need of immediate surgery. This method is essential for examining cancer patients, usually after treatment, to determine the success rate of the treatment and the possibility of relapse.
Right now, the sensitivity of these techniques is dependant on an approximate number of mutant pieces of DNA. If it is lower than detectable, a false negative result can be produced despite any presence of residual cancer or chances of relapse.
A single tumor may consist of various mutations that produce cancer. Some are common such as EGFR in lung cancer, while some may vary individually. The set of mutations can be individualized based on the genetic makeup of the person.
This new technique, however, is very promising due to the high sensitivity for the detection of ctDNA, in patients with a further degree of breast and melanoma cancer, and patients with glioblastoma. This technique also helps in detection in the early stages of cancer, where the level of ctDNA is in smaller amounts in the blood causing difficulty to detect.
This also held the inclusion of lung or breast cancer patients, patients with early-stage melanoma who went through surgery, which cause further hurdles in detection.
According to the chief executive of Cancer Research UK, Michelle Mitchell, the liquid biopsies can transform all the areas of cancer care, ranging from primary detection to individualized treatment options and observing. This field of research depends highly on technology, and future advancements in liquid biopsies could eventually save the lives of many.