Cancer is terrifying since the disease manifests within a person’s own malfunctioning cells. From the moment when the cell cycle goes amuck and cells begin to divide aberrantly with no end, every second counts. That’s why one vital factor in tackling cancer is early detection. Patients whose cancer is detected sooner often have an increased chance at recovery. This is especially true with lung cancer patients, whose chances of survival increases by 200 percent when cancer is detected early.
Lung cancer affects over 200,000 people every year and is the most deadly cancer in the United States. The disease claims over 150,000 lives each year, but a new innovation might just change that forever. Liquid Biopsy is a technique developed by Dennis Lo, a doctor, after almost 20 years of work.
The technique seems pretty simple in that scientists collect DNA fragments from dying cells in your blood. In theory, a patient with cancer in the earliest stages should have some population of dying cancer cells that shed fragments into the bloodstream. A quick, affordable, and noninvasive blood test can analyze the blood for any cancerous DNA.
The test is so good that it can determine that cancer is growing before tumors are even detectable on traditional CT scans and far before patients first feel symptoms. The new technique was tested in a trial with 100 lung cancer patients who were followed from diagnosis through surgery and chemotherapy.
Results following the trial of the Liquid Biopsy technique are published in Nature. Patients who had residual amounts of tumourous DNA detected in their blood would go on to relapse in months or even a year after their cancer was removed. With the technique, doctors were able to predict a relapse in a patient within a 350-day window with a startling 92 percent accuracy.
This technique shows real promise in diagnosing cancer early at an affordable cost. Once the system is thoroughly developed, scientists like Lo suggest that routine blood tests may provide the ultimate cancer screen. Advances like the Liquid Biopsy display the power that lies in personalized medicine, a health care strategy aiming to provide each patient with care customized to their body.