Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer
Center in Boston have revealed that analyzing stray cancer cells in the blood
of lung cancer patients may one day help doctors to adjust medication
accordingly thus paving the way for personalized medicine.
The new report is due to be published in the July 24
issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. It was published in advance
online on Wednesday.
The technology is called Circulating Tumor Cells chip and
has also been used in analyzing lung, pancreatic, prostate, breast and colon
cancers in a previous study published in nature.
"We're very interested in the biology of these cells
because no one has really been able to study metastasis [spread of cancer to
other parts of the body] in action," said Dr. Daniel Haber, senior author
of the paper. "These are the cells that cause metastases and the lethality
of cancer. Now that we can identify and purify them in decent numbers, we can
study and hopefully identify some of their vulnerabilities. It opens up a whole
field of human metastasis and human therapies."
The researchers analyzed 27 patients with non-small cell
lung cancer among whom 23 who had EGFR gene mutations and four who did not have
such mutation. Dr Haber said CTCs were identified 100% of the time in all
to know in real time what you're treating," he added. "We need to be
able to follow the patient without needing to re-biopsy the tumor every