Study reveals how new blood test helps improve cancer treatment, ET HealthWorld

Study reveals how new blood test helps improve cancer treatment, ET HealthWorld


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Zurich: Early detection increases the chances of successful cancer treatment. Almost every type of cancer is covered under this. Evaluating the pros and cons of each type of therapy on an individual basis and regularly monitoring the results of treatment are also essential components of effective patient care.

Cancer specialists have a variety of techniques available to accomplish this, including the use of imaging equipment and invasive procedures such as punctures, tissue sampling, and endoscopic procedures.

Recently, an advanced technique has been developed by researchers at the University of Zurich (UZH) and Zurich University Hospital (USZ), which is a type of liquid biopsy, which examines blood samples instead of organs or tissues.

The method sequences and analyzes DNA fragments circulating in patients' blood. “Our method can be used in the future for risk assessment, treatment monitoring during follow-up care and early detection of cancer recurrence, in principle for all types of tumors,” said Zsolt Balazs, co-first author of the study at UZH's Department of Quantitative Biomedicine.

Since this method is based on blood samples, it is less invasive than performing a tissue biopsy. In addition, taking blood samples is faster and more practical in daily operations in the hospital, as fewer appointments are needed for diagnostic interventions, allowing those affected to avoid long waiting times.

The new method of analyzing liquid biopsies could help oncologists more accurately determine tumor activity and spread. This will help them develop customized treatments for individual patients. “We can see earlier and more quickly how much cancer has spread in the body and how well a patient is responding to a specific treatment, or whether it might spread again,” said Zsolt Balazs.

In the laboratory, the researchers analyzed gene fragments circulating in the blood for changes in DNA that are characteristic of specific types of cancer. The method analyzed changes in the number and length distribution of the fragments. “The liquid biopsy technique enables us to discriminate between biologically less and more aggressive metastatic cancer disease – perhaps even before using imaging techniques,” said co-first author Panagiotis Balerampas, professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at USZ.

The researchers tested their method on patients undergoing radiotherapy, including many HPV-positive patients. HPV stands for human papillomavirus, which can also cause cancer. The number of HPV DNA fragments found in the blood helped the researchers observe tumor growth. For head and neck cancers, they found that high concentrations of HPV DNA could be an early sign of cancer recurrence, which could be combated using immunotherapy.

“The more the tumour metastasizes, the worse the patient's quality of life. This also applies to local recurrences that are not detected in time. It is important that we individualise treatment as much as possible, taking into account the potential benefits of all treatments as well as their impact on the patient's quality of life,” concluded Balerempas, who oversaw the treatment of patients with head and neck tumours in the study. (ANI)

  • Published on July 2, 2024 at 06:04 PM IST

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