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.
AdvertisementThe 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 samples.
"It's important 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 time."