Help for cancer patients may be coming quicker than ever before, thanks to a medical breakthrough. Nearly half of all people in remission from lung cancer will experience a recurrence. That’s why that population was chosen as the target demographic for a study that sought to prioritize early detection of cancer recurrence.
What did the study find?
The research was led by scientists at Francis Crick Institute in London, who used samples from patients’ lung tumors to develop a unique genetic analysis of each patient’s cancer. Once the tumors were removed, researchers drew blood from the patients every three months and analyzed the samples for traces of cancer DNA, which could suggest that a tumor was re-growing.
The method ultimately was able to tip off 13 out of 14 patients who did eventually see a recurrence. While other tests and scans would have likely been able to pinpoint the return of cancer, the blood test was able to pick it up when a tumor was just .3 cubic millimeters in size. That means the news came up to a year ahead of any other detection method.
Interpreting the results
The speed at which the blood test can alert a patient to the recurrence can ensure help for cancer patients is provided swiftly, lessening the likelihood that a tumor will grow unnoticed. Early detection is key when it comes to catching and treating cancer, so researchers are hailing the test as a significant breakthrough.
The team that pioneered this method also saw another milestone with the genetic-testing portion of their research. In that portion of the work, the researchers found that tumors with “chromosomal chaos,” in which their DNA was rapidly changing, were more likely than others to recur after surgery.
That information, coupled with this latest breakthrough, could put researchers closer to helping high-risk patients avoid developing cancer again.
The blood test still has extensive clinical trials to undergo, to make sure the results can be replicated. If so, this means the research community is poised to turn a significant corner when it comes to treatment and prevention and providing help for cancer patients.