US researchers have developed a new way of tracking and fighting cancer, using patient-specific biomarkers from the DNA of individual cancer tumors, a study published Thursday showed.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore used genetic sequencing to identify and track patient-specific changes to the DNA in cancerous cells.
Chromosomes in cancerous cells are rearranged at the earliest stages of cancer, and the alterations continue throughout tumor development.
The researchers analyzed four tumor samples -- two colon and two breast tumors -- and compared them with normal tissue sample, in which there has been no rearranging of DNA.
Using the new method, which the researchers have called PARE - for Personalized Analysis of Rearranged Ends -- the researchers were able to create biomarkers specific to each patient and each tumor for cancer.
The biomarkers "offer a reliable measure that would be useful for monitoring tumor response to specific therapies, detecting residual disease after surgery, and long-term clinical management," the study, which was presented here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says.
The new technique provides a highly accurate and specific way to monitor tumors and will eventually give doctors a new, cost-effective tool in their arsenal against cancer and open a new era of personalized management of cancer patients.
"There is currently no test for cancer patients that provides personalized biomarkers for clinical management of disease, and we feel that this is an important step in bringing new genome sequencing technologies to personalized patient care," said senior author Victor Velculescu, associate professor of oncology and Co-Director of the Cancer Biology Program at Johns Hopkins.
PARE is currently very costly, but the price-tag of the method is expected to drop "precipitously" in the near future, a comment piece accompanying the study says.
"As PARE becomes affordable, it will be a helpful addition for physicians to tailor patient care and may become a useful supplement to traditional monitoring by imaging or other approaches," said Rebecca Leary, a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.