Blood Test Matches Cancer Patients to Best Treatment

Blood test offers insight into how well a drug is working during the course of cancer treatment.

Blood test offers insight into how well a drug is working during the course of cancer treatment.

A blood test has been developed by scientists in the United Kingdom may allow physicians to pair cancer patients with the best treatment option for their disease to track the tumor’s progress and determine if the treatment is working.

Utilizing the blood test provides insight into what is occurring to tumors, giving scientists intimate details on how well the treatment is working, how the cancer is changing, and whether it is becoming treatment resistant.

This is the first time that a blood test has been used to this capacity during clinical trials of targeted drugs, indicating that the technique can monitor cancer simply and quickly.

The test works by filtering out tumor DNA from a patient’s blood to be evaluated for genetic defects. Based on the results, researchers can make optimal treatment decisions the first time.

Traditionally, tumor samples are taken at the beginning of treatment, leaving doctors with outdated information about how the genetic makeup of a patient’s disease is changing in response to treatment.

“Tumors and the gene faults that drive them are unique and constantly evolving,” said study lead Professor Johann de Bono from the Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden. “It’s crucial that we understand these changes so doctors can choose the best treatments for each patient. We need to do more research, but this approach could have a huge impact on how we make treatment decisions, also potentially making diagnosis and treatment quicker, cheaper, and less invasive.”

The new approach can provide real-time analysis and updates, as well as helping doctors identify patients who are suitable for clinical trials of new drugs.

“Blood tests like these are the future of cancer treatment and this study proves that they can work in practice — helping us to diagnose, analyze and monitor tumors more easily,” said Dr. Kat Arney, Cancer Research UK’s science information manager. “Thanks to research like this we’re developing new ways to shake the genetic foundations that underpin cancer and save more lives.”