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A NEW blood test makes cancer treatment more successful by predicting when a tumour will return or evolve.
Doctors can give the best drugs at the right time by using the results “like a weather forecast”.
Patients give a blood sample every few weeks, which is examined for DNA originating from the tumour.
A computer analyses the fragments, tracks changes and then predicts what will happen next.
Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, have already used the test for bowel cancer patients. And they say it could be adapted for use in people with other forms of the disease.
It allowed medics to tell which patients would benefit from which drugs and when they were likely to stop working.
They were able to change medication before a returning tumour was even visible on scans – boosting survival times.
The blood test – or liquid biopsy – was cheaper, less painful and more effective than a solid biopsy from the tumour itself. Dr Andrea Sottoriva said: “We analysed tumour DNA from frequent blood samples, which allowed us to closely track the genetic evolution of bowel cancer within patients.
“Our computer model used information from liquid biopsies to predict how a tumour’s genetic make-up would evolve, and estimate how long it would take for the cancer to return – in much the same way that computer models can forecast the weather.
“The genetic make-up of cancer is highly complex and ever-changing, and understanding how tumours evolve in response to treatment is key in combating drug resistance.”
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Dr Nicola Valeri, who also worked on the study, said: “Analysing tumour DNA from frequent blood samples, which are already taken throughout a person’s treatment, can help predict cancer’s next move.
“Forecasting how tumours will evolve in individual people with bowel cancer could open up the very exciting possibility of using liquid biopsies for personalised, adaptive treatment.”
The findings are published in the journal Cancer Discovery.