Personalized blood tests on patients with cancer can tell whether treatment is working, or whether disease has returned. A sample of the tumor is used to identify the unique cancer gene sequence, meaning the blood test identifies tumor “rearrangements” of the DNA. This method of “fingerprinting” the cancer can reportedly track the development of the cancer in the specific individual’s body.
“[This technique] will allow us to measure the amount of cancer in any clinical specimen as soon as the cancer is identified by biopsy,” study co-author Dr. Luis Diaz explains to Business Weekly. “This can then be scanned for gene rearrangements, which will then be used as a template to track that particular cancer.”
While the testing is still expensive at the moment, doctors are hoping the price will fall over time to make it more affordable to more people fighting cancer.
“This is a great tool towards made-to-measure cancer care,” Professor Victor Velculescu of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore told the Telegraph.co.uk. “This will be a step towards cancer becoming a manageable chronic disease rather than an acute terminal disease,” he continued. “People will be able to manage their own cancer.”
The study will be published in next week’s issue of Science Translational Medicine.