Blood test to help guide cancer treatment

A new Flinders University trial set to get underway will reportedly evaluate a blood test to help guide the treatment of oesophageal, stomach, and bowel cancers, which, if successful, could potentially revolutionise how patients managed and cared for.

This research will build on a successful collaboration between Flinders University, CSIRO, and biotechnology company Clinical Genomics that developed a blood test for bowel cancer.

The blood test is currently offered under the brand name COLVERA® in the US as a tool to aid in the detection of cancer relapse after treatment.

Earlier research, supported by the Flinders Foundation, showed the test used for bowel cancer could also be used to detect oesophageal and stomach cancers.

Now thanks to a new federal government grant announced recently, a Flinders University-led research team will expand clinical trial studies to determine whether the test can be used for new indications such as monitoring the treatment of gastrointestinal cancers.

“Currently, there is no simple and sensitive test that informs how well a patient is responding to treatment, be it chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery,” says lead researcher Associate Professor Erin Symonds, from SA Health and Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute.

“Patients are either treated according to existing medical convention, or the cancer needs to be detected by a scan, at which point changing the treatment options may be too late.

“And it’s not just being able to change treatments that’s important for saving lives.

“If a patient is responding well to treatment, a test result may mean avoiding risky surgery or at the very least bring hope to the patient that treatment is on the right track.”

It’s said the test works by detecting a particular type of change to the DNA that is specific to cancer, which may be shed into the bloodstream.

The DNA test has been shown in multiple clinical trials to be better than the blood test that is currently used by doctors in hospitals.

“Our research has shown that the DNA blood test is twice as sensitive than the standard clinical blood test that is in use, and therefore, may offer the ability to indicate whether the course of action is actually working earlier in the treatment plan,” says Associate Professor Symonds.

“Depending on the results, doctors, together with their patients, will be able to make informed decisions about the right treatment strategy, ensuring a more personalised approach to treatment that will lead to improved survival and well-being.

“Should our trial be successful, it will enable personalised adjustment of treatment, have a significant impact on quality of life for newly diagnosed cancer patients and improve survival outcomes, while also generating cost savings for cancer care and treatment.”

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