Blood could ‘help trace tumours' evolutionary past’

11 July 2014

Scientists based in the US have developed an advanced way of collecting and growing cancer cells found in blood samples, which will reveal how tumours evolve, according to a study from the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center.

The findings will also help researchers understand how a tumour’s genes change over time, which could pave the way for new treatments.

When treating the disease, sometimes drugs can become ineffective as tumours can acquire new genetic faults over time, leading to resistance.

Currently, samples are taken from the tumour itself to analyse the cancer, but biopsies are invasive and can be incredibly uncomfortable for patients. In addition, these samples usually contain limited information as they can only provide a single snapshot into the tumour’s genetic history.

The new study examined ways of collecting cancer cells found in the bloodstream that have been discarded by malignancies. Once gathered, they can be grown on the laboratory to track genetic changes .

This information could be used to help doctors select the treatments that will be most effective.

Dr Shyamala Maheswaran, from the MGH cancer center and an author on the study, said: “We need to improve culture techniques before this is ready for clinical use, and we are working on doing that right now.”

Posted by Edward Bartel

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