With over 200 types of cancer and an estimated 900 people being diagnosed with cancer every day researchers are constantly looking for a medical breakthrough to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. The latest potential diagnostic tool is a blood test.
The April 6th edition of the peer reviewed journal ‘Nature Medicine’ published funded work by researchers at Stanford University. The American researchers set out to “develop a method that overcomes two major hurdles in the circulating tumour DNA field; first, the technique needs to be very sensitive to detect the very small amounts of tumour DNA present in the blood. Second, to be clinically useful it’s necessary to have a test that works off the shelf for the majority of patients with given cancer” said one of the senior authors Maximilian Diehn, assistant professor of oncology radiation at the university.
To achieve their goal the researchers developed a technique called CAPP-seq (cancer personalised profiling by deep sequencing) to detect small amounts of tumour DNA in the blood of 17 patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (tumour cells naturally die and disperse into the blood). To ensure the reliability of CAPP-seq 5 healthy blood samples were also taken and analysed.
After the DNA was sequenced around 10,000 times, commonly mutated sections of DNA were identified and filtered to “enrich” them. The results showed circulating DNA in 50% of patients with early stage non-small-cell lung cancer and in 100% of those with late stage cancer of the same type. This sounds highly promising but the sample was very small and more studies are required to determine the best way to utilise the results.
It is hoped that one day a blood test could monitor cancer progression, a patient’s response to treatment and perhaps even screening and diagnosis.
Early detection greatly improves the success of treatment, so it is vital that you give yourself some: