Novel blood test offers unprecedented insight into a patient’s cancer makeup – News-Medical.Net | WHs Answers

Researchers at the Vancouver Prostate Center have developed a new blood test that offers unprecedented insight into the nature of a patient’s cancer and may allow doctors to better select treatment options that improve patient outcomes.

The technology was outlined in a study published today Nature.

The first blood test of its kind analyzes the DNA released into the bloodstream by metastatic cancer, known as circulating tumor DNA or ctDNA. By sequencing the entire genome of this ctDNA, the test reveals characteristics unique to each patient’s cancer and gives physicians new tools to develop more personalized treatment plans.

“With just a few drops of blood, we can uncover important information about a person’s overall illness and how best to treat their cancer,” says Dr. Alexander Wyatt, assistant professor of urological sciences at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and research scientist at the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI) and BC Cancer. “This test has the potential to help physicians select more tailored treatment options and detect treatment resistance more efficiently, allowing physicians to adjust clinical care as needed.”

For the study, the researchers examined ctDNA samples from patients with metastatic prostate cancer. Metastatic Cancer -; Cancer that has spread to other organs in the body -; is often incurable, and chemotherapy and newer targeted therapies may not work for all patients. Biopsies to determine the best treatments for this type of cancer are rarely performed due to their invasive nature and high risk of complications. This is often a major obstacle in the study and treatment of this disease.

The researchers discovered that whole genome sequencing of ctDNA provides a wealth of information about the various metastases distributed throughout the body. Using newly developed computer programs, the researchers were able to locate the unique genetic makeup of different cancer populations in the body to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the disease.

“Metastatic cancers are complex and our understanding of them has been limited,” says Dr. Wyatt. “Whereas traditional biopsies only provide a small snapshot of the disease, this new test is able to paint a more complete picture of metastases throughout the body, all with a simple and easy-to-perform blood test.”

The researchers say the information can also be used to predict which treatments will or will not work in each patient.

“Every cancer is unique and every patient responds differently to treatment,” says Dr. Wyatt. “This new generation of ctDNA testing can help physicians select the treatment option that is most likely to benefit a patient.”

New insights into treatment resistance

While the number of cancer treatment options has increased in recent years, a common problem is that eventually these treatments stop working. Drug resistance can develop over time when cancer cells accumulate molecular changes that make them less sensitive to a particular drug or treatment.

The study by Dr. Wyatt and his team shed new light on how this resistance develops. By collecting multiple ctDNA samples over time, they were able to learn how cancer develops in response to treatment. The results revealed new genetic mechanisms of resistance to the most common drugs used to treat metastatic prostate cancer and, more generally, show how ctDNA profiling can be used to understand treatment resistance in other cancers.

“This technology can be applied to other types of cancer to understand how these tumors metastasize and how they eventually evade treatment,” says Dr. Wyatt. “It will also help us develop the next generation of cancer therapies that more effectively target resistant diseases.”

The researchers say this minimally invasive, relatively inexpensive, and highly scalable technology is now being used in large clinical trials. These include state-of-the-art precision oncology clinical trials in Canadian cancer patients conducted at BC Cancer and the Vancouver Prostate Centre.


University of British Columbia

Magazine reference:

Herberts, C. et al. (2022) Deep ctDNA chronology of the whole genome of treatment-resistant prostate cancer. Nature.

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