Avoiding Unnecessary Bowel Cancer Side Effects

Blood test may identify patients who need more intensive chemotherapy.

Blood test may identify patients who need more intensive chemotherapy.

Researchers have discovered evidence indicating a blood test may be able to identify which bowel cancer patients may achieve a greater benefit from more intensive chemotherapy, according to a recent study.

The most common treatment for colorectal cancer is a combination therapy with chemotherapy agents, however the outcome can be improved with additional drugs. But the combination treatments can increase adverse events, which include hair loss, low white blood cell count, diarrhea, and peripheral nervous system damage, the study noted.

For the study, researchers in the UK counted tumor cells from blood samples in an effort to predict which patients may benefit the most.

"Here in Manchester we are interested in detecting cancer cells that have been shed from a patient's tumor and are circulating in their blood,” Professor Caroline Dive, from the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, said in a press release. “In this study we wanted to see if the number of tumor cells in a blood sample could be linked to how well patients respond to intensive chemotherapy."

The researchers evaluated advanced colorectal cancer patients receiving a 4-drug combination therapy. The results confirmed patients with 3 or more circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in their blood had lower overall survival than patients with less than 3 CTCs.

The analysis indicated that patients with a higher CTC count prior to treatment could benefit more from an intensive treatment regimen.

"These studies are important for the development of a more personalized treatment approach for cancer patients where patients receive the treatments most likely to benefit them,” study team member Matt Krebs, MD, said in a press release.