DNA Mutations Shed in Blood Predicts Response to Immunotherapy in Patients With Cancer

Excerpt:

“In a first-of-its-kind study, University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers report that a blood sample, or liquid biopsy, can reveal which patients will respond to checkpoint inhibitor-based immunotherapies.

” ‘We can help predict response to immunotherapy by measuring the number of mutations in circulating tumor DNA using a simple blood test,’ said Yulian Khagi, MD, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center fellow and first author. ‘Immunotherapy can result in serious side effects, and therefore being able to predict who will respond is important to mitigating potential risk to each patient.’ ”

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Blood Tumor Markers May Warn When Lung Cancer Patients Are Progressing on Targeted Treatments

Excerpt:

“For many years, oncologists have known that cancers can secrete complex molecules into the blood and that levels of these molecules can be easily measured. These so-called ‘tumor markers’ are traditionally associated with a single dominant cancer type, for example Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) linked to prostate cancer, Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) to colorectal cancer, CA125 to ovarian cancer, CA19.9 to pancreatic cancer and CA27.29 to breast cancer. However, the real challenge has been to determine a practical use for these markers. They don’t appear to be useful as a means of screening otherwise healthy people for evidence of underlying cancers.”

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Arteries Better than Veins for Liquid Biopsy

“As the field of liquid biopsies for tracking disease progression and therapeutic response heats up, many doctors are looking for ways to apply this approach to their patients. Currently, assays for circulating tumor cells (CTCs) – one type of liquid biopsy – have been approved for diagnostic purposes in metastatic breast, colorectal, or prostate cancer. In these diseases, the presence of CTCs in the peripheral blood is associated with decreased progression-free survival and decreased overall survival. The major challenge for this technology is that CTCs are not always found in the blood of patients with aggressive disease who would be expected to have high numbers. Now, researchers at Thomas Jefferson University investigating uveal melanoma, a type of melanoma that originates in the eye, have shown that the low numbers could simply be explained by where the blood is drawn – whether from a vein or an artery.”


Pembrolizumab Skin Reactions Tied to Better Cancer Survival

“Skin reactions may affect up to 42% of patients treated with pembrolizumab (Keytruda, Merck & Co, Inc) and could indicate better progression-free survival, according to a retrospective review published online July 29 in JAMA Dermatology.

” ‘Cutaneous adverse events are frequent but mild during pembrolizumab treatment. The development of cutaneous adverse events, especially of hypopigmentation, in patients affected by melanoma, could point toward better treatment response,’ commented first author Martine Sanlorenzo, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco.

“Pembrolizumab is an anti–programmed death-1 drug that has shown promise in treating melanoma, non–small cell lung cancer, and renal cell cancer. The drug is a monoclonal antibody that targets the programmed death–1 (PD-1) receptor on T lymphocytes, which functions in immune inactivation. Tumor cells that express the programmed death ligand–1 (PDL-1) take advantage of the PD-1 receptor to evade the immune response.”


Study: Breast Ca Patients Need Better Cardiac Monitoring

“Breast cancer patients received suboptimal cardiac monitoring during treatment with trastuzumab (Herceptin), according to a large population-based study.

“Among more than 2,000 patients, only 36% of evaluable participants received adequate monitoring for cardiotoxicity in accordance with current guidelines, reported Mariana Chavez-MacGregor, MD, of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and colleagues.

“Interestingly, physician characteristics had more influence than patient factors on cardiac monitoring, they wrote in the Journal of Clinical Oncology

” ‘We suspected that the rates of cardiac monitoring were going to be low, but we were surprised on how low, particularly in this high-risk group of patients,’ Chavez-MacGregor, a medical oncologist, told MedPage Today in a separate interview. ‘Of particular concern was that even among patients with cardiac comorbidities the rates of cardiac monitoring were not higher.’ “


New Blood Test Shows Promise in Cancer Fight

“In the usual cancer biopsy, a surgeon cuts out a piece of the patient’s tumor, but researchers in labs across the country are now testing a potentially transformative innovation. They call it the liquid biopsy, and it is a blood test that has only recently become feasible with the latest exquisitely sensitive techniques. It is showing promise in finding tiny snippets of cancer DNA in a patient’s blood.

“The hope is that a simple blood draw — far less onerous for patients than a traditional biopsy or a CT scan — will enable oncologists to quickly figure out whether a treatment is working and, if it is, to continue monitoring the treatment in case the cancer develops resistance. Failing treatments could be abandoned quickly, sparing patients grueling side effects and allowing doctors to try alternatives.

“ ‘This could change forever the way we follow up not only response to treatments but also the emergence of resistance, and down the line could even be used for really early diagnosis,’ said Dr. José Baselga, physician in chief and chief medical officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

“Researchers caution that more evaluations of the test’s accuracy and reliability are needed. So far, there have been only small studies in particular cancers, including lung, colon and blood cancer. But early results are encouraging. A National Cancer Institute study published this month in The Lancet Oncology, involving 126 patients with the most common form of lymphoma, found the test predicted recurrences more than three months before they were noticeable on CT scans. The liquid biopsies also identified patients unlikely to respond to therapy.”


Measuring Prostate Cancer Cells in Blood Can Help Predict Treatment Success or Failure

“A blood test that measures the number of cells shed from prostate tumours into the bloodstream can act as an early warning sign that treatment is not working, a major new study shows.

“Researchers showed that measuring the numbers of circulating tumour cells in the blood predicted which men were benefitting least from a prostate cancer drug after as little as 12 weeks of treatment.

“They hope their work will allow doctors to switch patients to alternative treatments earlier than is currently possible, if these results are confirmed by further studies. The research could also hasten the development of cancer treatments by speeding up clinical trials, since doctors could tell much earlier whether a treatment is working.”


Circulating Tumor Cells Provide Genomic Snapshot of Breast Cancer

“The genetic fingerprint of a metastatic cancer is constantly changing, which means that the therapy that may have stopped a patient’s cancer growth today, won’t necessarily work tomorrow. Although doctors can continue to biopsy the cancer during the course of the treatment and send samples for genomic analysis, not all patients can receive repeat biopsies. Taking biopsies from metastatic cancer patients is an invasive procedure that it is frequently impossible due to the lack of accessible lesions. Research published October 10th in the journal Breast Cancer Research suggest that tumor cells circulating in the blood of metastatic patients could give as accurate a genomic read-out as tumor biopsies.

“Counting the number of circulating (CTCs) can tell us whether a patient’s cancer is aggressive, or whether it is stable and responding to therapy,” says the article’s first author Sandra V. Fernandez, Ph.D., assistant professor of Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University. “Our work suggests that these in the blood also accurately reflect the genetic status of the parent tumor or its metastases, potentially giving us a new and easy to source of genomic information to guide treatment.”