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Genomics and the blood – a powerful duo for cancer patients

April 12, 2018

Detecting ctDNA in the blood of cancer patients may help reoccurrence

A person’s blood can tell us a lot about their health. We’ve blogged about blood biomarkers that may soon help clinicians diagnose concussionsovarian cancer and prostate cancer. Yet, it seems like we’re still only scratching the surface of blood’s potential to reveal health insights. For example, Stanford researchers have recently discovered that the blood from certain cancer patients can predict a recurrence even five months before symptoms appear.

Detecting ctDNA in the blood of cancer patients may help predict recurrence

Circulating tumor DNA, or ctDNA, was the critical biomarker in the study of 40 patients who had been treated for localized lung cancer. (ctDNA is fragmented DNA in the blood originating from tumors or tumor cells.) “Strikingly, we observed that all patients in whom we could detect circulating tumor DNA after treatment developed recurrence, while the vast majority of patients who were circulating tumor DNA negative remained disease free,” writes one of the researchers, radiation oncologist Maximilian Diehn, MD, Ph.D.

As described in Stanford’s Scope, the researchers studied and genomically sequenced 255 blood samples taken after treatment from the 40 patients in the study. The researchers were “able to detect the ctDNA in the blood of most patients about five months before the disease was otherwise clinically detectable.”

The research also turned up ctDNA mutations in a subset of patients that were associated with a positive response to known anticancer treatments. This finding provides hope that blood testing can improve prognosis as well as inform individual treatment decisions.

Quick access to high-quality blood specimens fuels potential for better outcomes

Improving access to high-quality blood – including whole blood, plasma, serum and buffy coats – can potentially enable better outcomes in cancer treatment and is one of the reasons we work so hard to help researchers find the exact blood biospecimens they need quickly. These are among the most frequently requested biospecimens from the iSpecimen Marketplace, an online platform that helps researchers quickly obtain the tissue, biofluids and cells they need from the patients they want. Researchers can specify patient demographics, diagnoses, medications, procedure history, outcomes or specific test result ranges.

Earlier detection. More accurate prognosis. Clearer direction for effective treatment. This is the promise of biospecimens, genomic sequencing and “reading” the blood.

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