Simple test could replace invasive biopsies for people with blood cancer

18 March

A husband and wife research team at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre have developed a simple blood test that could eliminate the need for invasive and costly bone marrow and lymph node biopsies for people with blood cancers.

 

  

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: The husband and wife research team Sarah-Jane Dawson and Mark Dawson said the test would be cheaper and less invasive.

 

The liquid biopsy is a blood test that looks at minor fragments of DNA emitted from cancer cells into the blood stream, called circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA).

"Through advances in technology we now have better tools to be able to measure really small and tiny fragments of DNA in the blood and we can start to use that information to get some understanding about how patients are responding to therapy," said Associate Professor Sarah-Jane Dawson.

Bone marrow and lymph node biopsies are usually an essential part of initial diagnosis and many patients with blood cancers will need to have the procedure several more times during their course of treatment.

But Professor Mark Dawson said the liquid biopsy would provide a less invasive and often less painful way to monitor how patients are responding to treatments.

"The way we have monitored this disease is by recurrent bone marrow biopsy, which have their limitations because they are only sampling one site, they are painful and our patients find them difficult," he said. "This really limits how often you can do it.

"We will probably be able to make clinical decisions in much more real time when we understand that the cancer cells are growing and not shrinking. We may be able to change track, not use that ineffective treatment and try something different.

"Similarly, if we understand the cancers are decreasing we may be able to assure the patients and give them the assurance that what we're doing is effective and they're likely to see benefits from this," said Professor Dawson.

The liquid biopsy can be done more often and is less expensive then the traditional biopsies.

"If we take the example of a bone marrow biopsy that many of these patients with blood cancers need to have, those tests on an individual basis cost around $2,500 and the patients need to stay in hospital for at least six hours related to those tests," said Associate Professor Dawson.

The research team is hoping the test will be available in Australia from July.

 

 

Test will ease pain, stress for patient

Lauren Mekis decided to surprise her family at Christmas time in 2015 after spending months travelling the world, but it was not quite the surprise she had planned.

"I was on a working holiday in Canada travelling around having the time of my life and noticed a lump come up and was misdiagnosed a bunch of times for about six months in Canada," said Ms Mekis.

"It wasn't until I came home for Christmas, a little surprise trip home, that within a week of coming home I'd seen doctors and had surgery and was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin's lymphoma."

Almost immediately she started months of tests and treatment.

Ms Mekis, a trained nurse, said of all the procedures she had to have, it was the bone marrow biopsy that caused her the most pain and angst.

"I remember seeing the metal instruments that go into your hip they're quite big and quite long and they have to go in quite deep and I couldn't see anything that was happening I was on my side but you'd feel the pressure of them going in," she said.

"Even if you can't feel the pain, it's a really strange feeling, and of course you can feel them scraping your bone and sort of hearing it and it sort of echoes in your body."

Ms Mekis said any test which could ease that sort of pain and stress would be a welcomed.

"It's so exciting, especially as a patient and also with a nursing background," Ms Mekis said. "I can just see the big difference that it will make to such a traumatic time and there's so many things going on, you're having so many different tests.

 

 

Biopsy 'traumatic' for young child

Kirrily Payne's two-year-old daughter Lexi was diagnosed with leukaemia in July last year.

She said seeing her young daughter go through so much pain having the biopsy was traumatic.

"With her being so young I had to pretty much hold her down just to put her under the general anaesthetic. That was quite tough for me — [it's] something that you're never going to forget," said Ms Payne.

While Professor Dawson said the test was not yet available for children, there was hope that with future testing and clinical trials it would be.

Ms Payne hopes it might be ready for Lexi as she undergoes another two years of treatments.

"It would be a great change to have a better option and not having to see your children go through that it would be a huge difference," she said.

Source: ABC News

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-18/blood-test-replace-invasive-biopsies-people-with-blood-cancer/8364404

 

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