Cancer is one of the deadliest diseases in the United States today. As a result of the seriousness of cancer, experts are emphasizing the importance of figuring out whether cancer treatment is working on a patient as soon as possible, so that if it is not they can change the plan. But is there really a test that can figure out whether cancer treatment is working within just sixteen hours?

Fox news reports on the new test.

Experts at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute (located in Boston) say they have come up with the new test. It is expected to change the way cancer treatment takes place.

The test is said to utilize a technique that can identify which specific drug will be the best at curing a certain cancer, and if that drug does not work well then experts can quickly change the plan.

How does the test work?

“The technique is called Dynamic BH3 Profiling, or DBP, and in most cases provided results within 16 hours of testing. It was designed to detect the earliest signs that a cancer cell treated with a drug is beginning to “self-destruct” through apoptosis, a natural quality-control process that rids the body of unneeded or dangerously abnormal cells,” according to Fox news.

How do cancer cells thrive?

Researchers say that cancer cells can survive by blocking molecular signals that spark apoptosis, which is defined as

"the death of cells that occurs as a normal and controlled part of an organism's growth or development."

The majority of chemotherapy treatments work by inspiring pro-death signals in cancer cells to overcome the survival signals. The cancer cell death process can take many days, but with the DBP test, experts can identify which drug or drug combination has most effectively started pro-death signaling to the cells.

How accurate is the new test?

Researchers say it is actually close to one hundred percent accurate and can be used now to help treat patients. The research team said they are quite excited for the way this could revolutionize cancer treatment. The DBP test was practiced on living tumor cells that were taken out during surgery or a biopsy, or were frozen in a way that leaves the cells thriving.

Dr. Letai, the study’s lead author, is an associate professor at the institute. He commented on his findings saying,

“This measurement can be made in less than a day. It turns out that those drugs that push cancer cells closer to the threshold of apoptosis even over this short time frame are the drugs that eventually kill the cancer cell best, both in the laboratory, and in mice and even humans. DBP was 80 to 90 percent accurate in predicting the ‘winner’ drug among 20 popular cancer treatment medications. Many different types of tumors were tested in the research, including leukemia, lymphoma, breast, melanoma, lung, prostate, colon and ovarian.”

Which tests existed before?

Previous techniques in precision cancer medicine include testing cancer tumors for DNA mutations that may make the cancer more sensitive to specific drugs. Research shows this form of testing is not always accurate, and the majority of tumors have numerous properties in addition to mutations that decipher drug responsiveness.

Dr. Letai told CBS,

“I hope that these findings will convince the world of cancer treatment that rapid, functional measurements of how a patient's actual living tumor cells react to a variety of cancer therapies can be at least as valuable in determining the best way to treat each patient. This is functional precision medicine, getting the right drugs to the right patient.”


Gerry Oginski
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