Simple Blood Test Shows Promise as Alternative to Tumor Biopsy

Tumor biopsies can confirm a cancer diagnosis and identify the cell type of the tumor. They are being increasingly used to determine if a patient’s tumor contains particular genetic alterations that might make them promising candidates for targeted therapies.

In short, tumor biopsies are an essential part of cancer care.

Dr. Marcel Hernandez

Dr. Marcel Hernandez

However, there are downsides. Tumor biopsies require invasive procedures, including surgery, and some patients may not be appropriate candidates due to poor health or a tumor’s location in the body.

Also, after initial testing and analyses of the biopsy samples, not enough tissue may be left for comprehensive molecular profiling – or the remaining samples may not be of sufficient quality for profiling.

To overcome these barriers to using tumor biopsy to gather useful genetic information about a patient’s cancer, researchers have developed alternative technologies that use a simple blood test to capture and analyze DNA and other types of genetic material released by tumor cells into the blood.

In the largest study of its kind to date, a so-called “liquid biopsy” blood test produced results highly similar to those of traditional tumor biopsies.

The test identified patterns of genomic changes in a large collection of patient blood samples that largely matched the patterns of genetic changes seen in large-tumor biopsy profiling studies.

And in a study of nearly 400 patients with several types of common cancers, in most cases the test identified the same mutations in the patients’ blood samples as were seen in their tumor biopsy samples.

The liquid biopsy also identified mutations linked to treatment resistance that had not been detected in the original tissue biopsy.


Increased Physical Activity Associated with Lower Risk of 13 Types of Cancer

We’ve long known that regular exercise is associated with reduced cancer risk.

A new study confirmed the link. The study showed that greater levels of leisure-time physical activity were associated with a lower risk of developing 13 types of cancer.

The study pooled data on 1.44 million people ages 19 to 98 from the US and Europe. It examined a broad range of cancers, including rare malignancies. Participants were followed for a median of 11 years during which 187,000 new cases of cancer occurred.

Among the most active participants, the risk of developing seven cancer types was 20 percent or more lower, compared to the risk with the least active participants.

The findings, confirm and extend the evidence for physical the beneficial effects of exercise on preventing cancer.

(The study, by Steven C. Moore, Ph.D., NCI, and colleagues from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Institutes of Health, and the American Cancer Society, was reported in the JAMA Internal Medicine, May 16, 2016.)

For more information or to set up an appointment, please contact us at the Hernandez Center at (650) 917-1121.


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