Blood Test Tackles Skin Cancer Prognosis
(Ivanhoe Broadcast)—A specific type of white blood cell count may help doctors predict the odds and length of survival for patients diagnosed with Merkel cell carcinoma, a deadly and aggressive form of skin cancer. Researchers from Fox Chase Cancer Center analyzed patient blood records from 1992 through 2010 in an attempt to find a correlation between lymphocytes and patient prognosis.
"With such a fast-growing cancer, we get one question a lot: 'how long do I have?'," Matthew Johnson, MD, a resident physician in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Fox Chase and lead author on the study said in a previously prepared statement. "That's usually hard to answer. These findings enable us to give a more educated response."
The absolute lymphocyte count (ALC) has been used in prognosis efforts of other cancers and is a known indicator of overall immune health. The researchers found that Merkel cell carcinoma patients lived on average 75 months less than patients with high ALC counts prior to surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. High ALC blood work also indicated a 67 percent increase disease-free survival relative to low ALC cases.
"ALC provides patients with some information about how long they may have left. There are a lot of patients who just want to know," Johnson explained in the statement.
The study authors believe though doctors currently have ALC metrics, they may not have known how to apply them to prognosis. This may also give patients a new tool to better understand their overall health condition when making treatment decisions.
Source: American Society for Radiation Oncology's 54th Annual Meeting
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