An extraordinarily sensitive new blood test has been developed that promises to be able to effectively track the progression of breast cancer at its earliest stages. It is suggested the blood test could track the efficacy of drug therapies better than current imaging techniques and prevent unnecessary surgical procedures or needless extra doses of chemotherapy.
It can be quite tricky catching cancer through simple blood tests. A variety of different biomarkers have recently been raised as potentially useful, from identifying certain RNA profiles in blood platelets to detecting signs of a process called protein phosphorylation. One of the more promising techniques being explored is the detection of fragments of tumor DNA that can circulate through person’s bloodstream.
These tiny cancerous traces are called ctDNA, and one of the biggest challenges faced in developing an accurate ctDNA blood test is producing a test sensitive enough to detect these fragments that often only appear in extraordinarily low levels, especially in the early stages of disease before a cancer has metastasized.
The new method, reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine, is called TARDIS (TARgeted DIgital Sequencing), and it is claimed to be almost 100 times more sensitive than existing ctDNA blood tests. One of the key innovations in the TARDIS method is that it takes samples of an individual patient’s tumor and personalizes the test to detect the specific mutations associated with that cancer.