Blood test shows patients' response to cancer treatment
The test is being dubbed as a ‘liquid biopsy’, and it means patients would not have to undergo repeat biopsies to have the progress of their tumour monitored once their treatment had started.
As well as being a very simple procedure, the researchers say it is also very cost effective.
They believe that implementing the test could be done at a similar cost to others used to detect and monitor cancer and a single technician could carry out several hundred tests a week.
To read the latest edition of Healthcare Global, click here
- Cannabis ‘does not slow progress of multiple sclerosis’
- UK rabies victim dies in hospital after dog bite
- Aspirin and ibuprofen can help prevent skin cancer
The blood test works by accurately measuring the levels of ‘faulty’ DNA fragments that are shed into the bloodstream by cancer cells as they die.
By tracking these levels, scientists at Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute were able to detect genetic faults involved in tumour growth in blood samples taken from 20 women with ovarian cancer.
The researchers were also able to build a ‘real-time’ picture of how one woman’s breast cancer was responding to treatment over more than a year.
This could eventually mean that that a patient is given certain treatments based on the results of a quick blood test, sparing them from an invasive biopsy.
Commenting on the new test, the author of the study Dr Nitzan Rosenfeld, from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute, said: “This type of blood test has the potential to revolutionise the way we diagnose and treat cancer.
“The great advantage is that it can be used to identify cancer mutations without surgery or a biopsy, making it safer and cheaper.”
The blood test also overcomes one of the main limitations of tumour biopsies, where a sample may only give a limited snapshot of the mutations that are present in cancer.
It is also difficult to take samples from secondary cancers throughout the body, once the disease has spread.
But because DNA is shed from all tumours into the bloodstream, this test gives a fuller picture of the disease’s progress.
This is the first time scientists have been able to screen entire genes in a blood test to identify mutations that have arisen in the cancer, and it could transform how cancers are monitored and treated in the future.
Dr James Brenton, from Cancer Research UK, added: “Our technique is much more comprehensive and practical than others that have been used to measure DNA in the blood.
“More than two per cent of the DNA we found in plasma of advanced cancer patients came from the tumour.
“This tumour specific DNA offers us an opportunity to follow the disease in ‘real-time’ as it changes, helping us to respond and change the treatments we use against the disease.”
He continued: “We need to confirm its accuracy in more patients, and in additional cancer types, but this test could be adapted to look for mutations in different cancers and updated to include new genetic faults as research uncovers them.”
Findings from the study have now been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Dr Nitzan Rosenfeld discusses the new blood test further:
The Healthcare Global magazine is now available on the iPad. Click here to download it.
Introducing Dosis - the AI powered dosing platform
Cloud-based platform Dosis uses AI to help patients and clinicians tailor their medication plans. Shivrat Chhabra, CEO and co-founder, tells us how it works.
When and why was Dosis founded?
Divya, my co-founder and I founded Dosis in 2017 with the purpose of creating a personalised dosing platform. We see personalisation in so many aspects of our lives, but not in the amount of medication we receive. We came across some research at the University of Louisville that personalised the dosing of a class of drugs called ESAs that are used to treat chronic anaemia. We thought, if commercialised, this could greatly benefit the healthcare industry by introducing precision medicine to drug dosing.
The research also showed that by taking this personalised approach, less drugs were needed to achieve the same or better outcomes. That meant that patients were exposed to less medication, so there was a lower likelihood of side effects. It also meant that the cost of care was reduced.
What is the Strategic Anemia Advisor?
Dosis’s flagship product, Strategic Anemia Advisor (SAA), personalises the dosing of Erythropoiesis Stimulating Agents (ESAs). ESAs are a class of drugs used to treat chronic anaemia, a common complication of chronic kidney disease.
SAA takes into account a patient’s previous ESA doses and lab levels, determines the patient’s unique response to the drug and outputs an ESA dose recommendation to keep the patient within a specified therapeutic target range. Healthcare providers use SAA as a clinical decision support tool.
What else is Dosis working on?
In the near term, we are working on releasing a personalised dosing module for IV iron, another drug that’s used in tandem with ESAs to treat chronic anaemia. We’re also working on personalising the dosing for the three drugs used to treat Mineral Bone Disorder. We’re very excited to expand our platform to these new drugs.
What are Dosis' strategic goals for the next 2-3 years?
We strongly believe that personalised dosing will be the standard of care within the next decade, and we’re honored to be a part of making that future a reality. In the next few years, we see Dosis entering partnerships with other companies that operate within value-based care environments, where tools like ours that help reduce cost while maintaining or improving outcomes are extremely useful.
What do you think AI's greatest benefits to healthcare are?
If designed well, AI in healthcare allows for a practical and usable way to deploy solutions that would not be feasible otherwise. For example, it’s possible for someone to manually solve the mathematical equations necessary to personalise drug dosing, but it is just not practical. AI in healthcare offers an exciting path forward for implementing solutions that for so long have appeared impractical or impossible.