Our image SR4586 (Lung Cancer, artwork) is featured in the following article from NPR:
Simple Blood Test To Spot Early Lung Cancer Getting Closer
by Richard Harris/NPR
One of these days, there could well be a simple blood test that can help diagnose and track cancers. We aren’t there yet, but a burst of research in this area shows we are getting a lot closer.
In the latest of these studies, scientists have used blood samples to identify people with lung cancer.
At the Stanford School of Medicine, Dr. Maximilian Diehn spends some of his time as a radiation oncologist treating patients with cancer, and some of his time delving into the world of DNA. In particular, he’s been working on ways to detect DNA that has been shed from a tumor and ends up in a patient’s blood.
"The problem has been that there’s a very small amount of the DNA there, usually, so it’s very hard to detect," Diehn says.
But new technologies allow him to find tiny amounts of DNA and scan large parts of it to look for mutations that come from tumors. And that opens up all sorts of possibilities.
"The initial impetus was having something I could use in my own patients … as a blood test that would let us both detect the presence of cancer as well as monitor how a patient’s cancer responds to various treatments," he says.
Right now, doctors often just wait and hope. And it can take months or even years to see whether a cancer treatment has worked.
But Diehn and his colleagues say they’ve developed an exquisitely sensitive DNA test that can tell them right away whether there is tumor left in a patient.
"If there is cancer DNA in the body left, that suggests there are still cancer cells left, so that patient is probably not cured," he says, "whereas if the cancer DNA is gone, that suggests the patient is likely to be cured."
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