Scientists now monitor levels of tumour DNA circulating in the blood in order to determine how advanced cancer in patients really is. But this method is considered both not sensitive enough and really time consuming. Dr Maximilian Diehn, Assistant professor participating in the study, said: “We set out to develop a method that overcomes two major hurdles in the circulating tumour DNA field.
First, the technique needs to be very sensitive to detect the very small amounts of tumour DNA present in the blood.
Second, to be clinically useful it’s necessary to have a test that works off the shelf for the majority of patients with a given cancer.”
The goal of the study was to find a way of creating a general method for monitoring circulating tumour DNA. Researchers focused their study on patients with non-small-cell lung cancer but according to them the new test they have been developing will also work with the most common types of cancer, including lung, breast and prostate. Dr Diehn related in the same study which was published in the journal Nature Medicine that:
“If we can monitor the evolution of the tumour, and see the appearance of treatment-resistant subclones, we could potentially add or switch therapies to target these cells.”