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Blood test hope for cancer patients

26 March 2015 08:59

A new blood test could boost prostate cancer treatments

A new blood test could boost prostate cancer treatments

Scientists say a new blood test could be used to fight prostate cancer on two fronts.

The Institute of Cancer Research says that by detecting cancer cells in the blood, doctors can gain more knowledge on which drugs are best for patients, and also speed up the time it takes to develop new ways to treat people with the disease.

It is thought that vital information on how effective drugs are in treating patients could be available in as short a time as 12 weeks following a test, while they could direct doctors to change to other more beneficial treatments quicker than they are currently able to.

Shorter drug trials

But the tests could also mean clinical trials of new treatments are completed much faster, scientists say.

Cancer patients who are travelling can currently take out specialist cancer travel insurance to cover emergency treatments they need while they are abroad.

Leading the new study is Professor Johann de Bono.

He says the availability and effectiveness of drugs used to prevent prostate cancer cells from spreading in the bloodstream have improved significantly in the last 10 years.

But doctors still face the difficulty of making sure the right drugs are used in the right patients.

When cells spread around the body in the blood it suggests patients are not responding well to their treatment and alternative methods can then be applied, Prof de Bono says.

Secondary tumours

When tumours grow, they release cells into the blood and these can start other tumours elsewhere in the body.

One of the main causes of death in prostate cancer patients is the spread of the disease to the liver, brain or other vital organs.

Around 41,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and 11,000 patients die from it every year.

The researchers examined the blood of 711 men involved in a trial of the drug abiraterone, which is designed to treat prostate cancer.

They tested for cancer cells and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) every four weeks during the trial. LDH is a biomarker that suggests tissue damage.

After 12 weeks a link was found between the test subjects that abiraterone helped the least and those with the highest levels of cancer cells and LDH in their blood.

The findings are now published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.