Targeting DNA Fragments May Improve Liver Cancer Treatment

Research explores non-invasive methods to allow for the safe study of cancer progression.

A recent study found a link between cancer DNA in a patient’s blood and the treatment of liver cancer.

Japanese researchers found that detecting circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in serum ‑-- when DNA is released by damaged cancer cells --- before surgery it could predict whether there will be a reoccurrence of cancer and if it will spread throughout the body.

Liver cancers can be difficult to safely analyze, because biopsys performed by physicians could potentially cause the cancer to spread around the organs. The level of ctDNA serum reflected the effect treatment had and the progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), or liver cancer.

"Doctors need non-invasive methods that will allow them to safely study cancer progression and characterize the genomic features of a patient's tumor," said principal investigator Professor Kazuaki Chayama. "Testing for these circulating DNA fragments may be a much easier and safer way of doing this than conventional liver biopsy."

Investigators found ctDNA in 7 out of 46 HCC patients. Those patients were also more likely to have a recurrence and metastasis of cancer.

The results of the study suggest a promising new way to treat liver cancer and the usefulness of targeting ctDNA.