Agency, 9 August : Could the DNA from a patient’s breast tumor help doctors spot whether stray cancer cells are still in her blood?
That’s what a small, new study suggests is possible. If the findings are replicated in a larger study, such a test might help determine whether a treatment is working or not. It also has the potential to reduce unnecessary additional treatments for breast cancer.
Now, women may have chemotherapy before surgery to destroy cancer cells. If the chemotherapy works well, it’s possible a woman might not even need surgery, the researchers explained.
Senior study author Dr. Muhammed Murtaza, from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, said about one-third of women who have surgery after chemotherapy show no signs of residual cancer. This suggests that the surgery might not have been needed. But right now, there’s no way to say for sure whether there are any remaining cancer cells in the blood without performing surgery.
Murtaza said the researchers hoped to create a test that could be performed before and after chemotherapy to predict which women need surgery and who might not need the additional procedure.
Along with study lead author Bradon McDonald from TGen, the researchers developed a personalized test dubbed TARDIS that could detect circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) using just a vial of blood.
CtDNA is DNA fragments that are shed from the tumor site and then circulate in the blood, the study authors explained.
The test is individualized using DNA from a piece of the tumor taken when the breast cancer is first diagnosed.
The study team used the test on 33 women, aged 40 to 70, with breast cancer, Murtaza said. Their cancers were diagnosed as stage 1 to 3, and none of the women had cancer that had spread to other parts of their body (metastasized). The women were followed for several months — from diagnosis until the time they had surgery to remove their tumor.
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