The arsenal continues to grow for doctors who dedicate their life and minds to rid us of cancer. One more tool for their holster is showing great promise. The “liquid biopsy” is an amazing tool and most likely will be used in large scale applications very soon. Many recent developments have been seen in cancer detection and diagnosis. The new technique holds such promise and is a very simple and easy technique.
Researchers and scientist have developed a technique called liquid biopsy, which is a blood test that will diagnosis cancer. The liquid biopsy is a blood test that has become feasible with the latest exquisitely sensitive techniques. The way this technique works is very simple; it will detect the tiny snippets of cancer DNA in the patient’s blood.
In this technique only a blood sample is taken for diagnosis and is very safe compared to the traditional cancer diagnosis techniques like the traditional biopsy or a CT scan. The hope is that a simple blood draw, which is far less burdensome for patients than a traditional surgical biopsy or a CT scan, will enable oncologists to quickly figure out whether a treatment is working and to continue monitoring the treatment in case the cancer develops resistance. It allows doctors to have a more precise status of the disease and any failing treatments or protocols could be abandoned quickly, sparing patients grueling side effects. This will give doctors the option to try alternative treatments.
Researchers said, “This could change forever the way we follow up not only response to treatments but also the emergence of resistance.”
The scientists have indicated that extensive evaluations are needed to confirm the efficacy of the blood test, but they say that they conducted small studies considering colon, lung and blood cancer, and the earlier results are quite encouraging.
A National Cancer Institute study published this month in The Lancet Oncology, involving 126 patients with the most common form of lymphoma, found the test predicted recurrences more than three months before they were noticeable on CT scans. More than three months! That is an eternity for cancer victims and will allow a much more aggressive treatment plan based on the individuals timetable versus a standard or general protocol treatment. The liquid biopsies also identified patients unlikely to respond to therapy. The researchers were able to predict the recurrence even faster than by the traditional CT scan.
The liquid biopsies could also help researchers identify the patients who are more likely to respond to therapy. Researchers say, “Every cancer has a mutation that can be followed with this method, it is like bar coding the cancer in the blood.”
The standard detection techniques for cancer to determine the effectiveness of the treatment are quite vague as it relies on the improvement of patient’s symptoms, but these improvements vary with every individual, so it is not very reliable.
Sometimes it also happens that the doctors think the tumor is present when it has gone.
The idea for the test grew out of a discovery made years ago about fetuses: they shed little pieces of DNA into the bloodstreams of mothers-to-be. It turned out that all growing cells, including tumors, shed tiny DNA fragments. “If you find DNA and tell the patient there is a very high risk of recurrence, that creates a lot of anxiety,” Gibbs said. “And we are not sure chemotherapy will be helpful.” The blood test, they hope, will answer that question.
Experts say, “When you are treating a patient — and we see this many times — your treatment is quite effective but there is some residual lesion on a scan, you take the patient to surgery for a biopsy, and all you see is scar tissue. There is no visible cancer there.” This is common because there are chances that it is recurrence.
The attorneys at Wallace & Graham, who routinely represent mesothelioma victims, are always nervous for their clients who have had a surgery to remove the mesothelioma. All of the survivors have routine follow-ups to monitor the status of their disease. When the standard diagnostic testing for recurrence is inconclusive and the diagnostic tools indicate it may be scar tissue or it may be recurrence, the client and their family become worried and psychologically feel like every day will be the day they are told the disease is back. The psychological benefit of early detection with a “liquid biopsy” along with the possibility for immediate implementation for treatment and hopefully a cure are great. This psychological benefit factor cannot be overlooked.
The liquid biopsy could also be more efficient than a CT scan, which can take weeks or months to register tumor shrinkage. Dr. José Baselga, physician in chief and chief medical officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said, “I cannot do a weekly liver biopsy and see how things are going, but I can do a blood test every week.”
Wallace & Graham attorneys will continue to monitor the development of this exciting field and will continue to share those here on the website. If you or a family member have any questions about this article or need legal assistance for any asbestos related disease such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis or other occupational or bystander diseases please call us at 1-800-849-5291 for a confidential free consultation.
The Author aggregated and excerpted this Blog/article to reflect the variety of news, opinion and analysis including those below.
Discovery, APRIL 20, 2015
THE NEW YORK TIMES, APRIL 20 2015
THE WEEK, APRIL 21 2015
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