Blood Test for Breast Cancer
(Ivanhoe Newswire) – Researchers have developed a simple blood test that can help doctors assess treatment effectiveness for patients with metastatic breast cancer.
"The current standard of care for metastatic disease involves the use of radiology studies such as CT scans, ultrasounds and the like to determine whether or not patients are deriving benefit from their current therapies. With this blood test, we have another reliable tool to help guide critical treatment decisions," Minetta Liu, M.D., lead investigator and director of translational breast cancer research at Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University was quoted as saying.
"The keys are to find the most effective therapy for each patient and to balance treatment benefit with quality of life,” said Liu. “This noninvasive method of monitoring patients – based on a simple blood test – brings us closer to these goals."
Using the FDA-approved CellSearch technology, researchers measured the number of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in blood collected from women in need of a new treatment regimen for metastatic breast cancer. A blood sample was collected when the patient began a new therapy, and repeated at three to four week intervals. A CTC count of five or more (per 7.5 mL of blood) was associated with disease progression.
"There was a highly significant correlation between the CTC result and the radiographic findings," said Liu. "The correlation was as significant for blood samples drawn at the time of imaging as it was for blood samples drawn as early as nine weeks before imaging. This advanced knowledge may allow us to determine much sooner if a therapy is ineffective so that we can change therapy earlier, avoid unnecessary side effects from agents with no treatment benefit, and potentially make more significant improvements in survival."
Liu said the study's findings also support monitoring CTCs to guide the timing of radiology studies. "We order scans at regular intervals because of convention. If we waited to obtain radiology studies in response to new symptoms, suspicious routine laboratory findings, and/or a shift in the CTC count from less than five to five or more, we could limit the number of scans needed and reduce health care costs, personal time away from family and work, and radiographic and contrasts exposures. This could have a very positive impact on a patient's quality of life."
SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Oncology, September 14, 2009
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