Blood Test for Cancer Cells Creating Big Buzz

Researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center will be among the first doctors to start using a new blood test for cancer cells. The test holds lots of promise for fine-tuning cancer treatment, but right now it's only for people who have already been diagnosed with the disease. Carrie Feibel has more.
If you are being treated for a tumor in your breast, lung or other organ, doctors naturally want to know how well the chemotherapy or radiation is working. They can use C-T scans, or take a needle biopsy, to see if the tumor is growing or shrinking. But those are very inexact measurements. And they can’t be done every day. A blood test can. Dr. Christopher Logothetis is a prostate cancer expert at MD Anderson.

“This is principally a huge engineering exercise that has proven feasible, that individual cells can be taken from the blood of a patient with a solid tumor, identified in small numbers in such a condition we now can look at the molecular profile of an individual cancer. That’s a huge advance.”

Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston invented the new blood test. Logothetis says there will be a few years of clinical trials, and MD Anderson will take part. Doctors could later use this test, or something similar, to pinpoint chemotherapy more exactly according to what kinds of cancer cells are circulating in a patient’s blood. The theory is that they can dial up the dosage of one drug, or dial back another, according to the blood test.

“It could prolong life, reduce the side effects of unnecessary therapies and has the potential to increase the efficiency of drug development, reducing the overall cost dramatically.”

Logothetis says other companies are working on their own blood tests, and it’s unclear which technology will emerge the winner, and at what price. From the KUHF Health Science and Technology Desk, I’m Carrie Feibel.
Bio photo of Carrie Feibel

Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...