Blood test offers hope to cancer sufferers

DNA analysis will enable doctors to pinpoint whether treatment is working

Doctors may soon be able to tell whether cancer has been successfully eliminated from the body using a sensitive blood test that could dramatically change the way they are able to monitor the recovery of their patients.

The blood test, which detects the presence of the smallest amounts of defective DNA shed by cancerous cells, can show how well cancer patients are responding to successive courses of treatment.

Cancer treatment is difficult to monitor at present and usually involves cumbersome and expensive hospital scanners. A blood test that can check different stages of remission will be an invaluable tool in determining whether treatment has worked, scientists said.

Each test is tailor-made for an individual patient and works by identifying gross changes to the patient's DNA that occur during cancer. This "personalised" test distinguishes between a patient's healthy DNA and that which has changed as a result of a cancerous growth, giving scientists a way of seeing if a treatment is succeeding. The researchers predict that the test could soon be used routinely in the battle against the killer disease.

Although such "personalised medicine" based on sequencing a person's unique genome is still expensive – about £3,500 – the scientists believe the test will eventually become no more expensive, but much more effective, than current methods of monitoring cancer treatment.

"Eventually, we believe this type of approach could be used to detect recurrent cancers before they are found by conventional imaging methods, like CT scans," said Luis Diaz, assistant professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Centre in Baltimore.

Victor Velculescu, another Johns Hopkins scientist involved in the study, presented yesterday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego, said: "There is currently no test for cancer patients that provides personalised biomarkers for clinical management of disease, and we feel that this is an important step in bringing new genome sequencing technologies to personalised patient care."

The technique, called personalised analysis of rearranged ends (Pare), differs from previous investigations of the genomes of cancer cells by looking at gross rearrangements of whole chunks of DNA rather than individual mutations in the "letters" of the genome.

Bert Vogelstein, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Baltimore, said: "These alterations, like the reordering of chapters of a book, are easier to identify and detect in the blood than single-letter [genome] changes."

The scientists tested the Pare technique on six sets of cancerous and normal tissue samples taken from four patients with colorectal cancer and two with breast cancer. They found between four and 15 DNA rearrangements in each of the six samples.

The researchers were able to show how levels of the cancer-linked DNA in the blood fell after the initial surgery to remove the tumour, and subsequent bouts of radiation treatments, chemotherapy and secondary surgery.

Rebecca Leary, a member of the research team, said the aim was to develop a highly sensitive method of detecting any residual cancer that may be left after a course of treatment.

"As Pare becomes affordable, it will [help] physicians to tailor patient care and may become a useful supplement to traditional monitoring by imaging or other approaches," Dr Leary said.

Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said: "The detection of DNA changes, unique to individual cancers, has proved a powerful tool in guiding the treatment of leukaemia. If this can be done for other types of cancer, like bowel, breast and prostate, it will help us bring new treatments to patients better and faster than ever."

Life and Style
Social media users in Mexico who commented on cartel violence have been killed in the past
techTweets not showing up or loading this morning, users say
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

    Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker