A fast blood test can help guide doctors to the best drugs for treating lung cancer patients.
The liquid biopsy successfully determined whether a lung cancer patient had a mutation that makes the disease treatable with certain pills that can have remarkable effects. The test also accurately told if less fortunate patients had a different mutations, which saved them weeks or months of treatment that would ultimately be useless.
According to researchers, this is a big step in the field of personalized medicine.
Traditionally doctors use tissue biopsies to determine whether someone have lung cancer and what type of lung cancer it is. A tissue biopsy is a procedure of going into the lung and removing a small part of the lung to perform tests on. These biopsies can be dangerous, sometimes resulting in a collapsed lung.
The liquid biopsy does the same thing as a tissue biopsy. The test looks for DNA from dead, broken-open tumor cells in the plasma, the liquid part of the blood. Researchers have been aware that this free-floating DNA is there, but they have struggled to develop a test that can find it.
The liquid biopsy detects certain mutations that affect many, but not most, lung cancer patients and mutations in another gene called KRAS that affect mostly smokers with lung cancer.
A tissue biopsy takes about four weeks to provide results. On the other hand, a liquid biopsy returns results in three days. This is a huge difference for lung cancer patient show want to know if they have even a chance of living a bit longer.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It will be diagnosed in more than 224,000 people this year and it will kill almost 160,000.
Lung cancer is hard to cure, but with the right treatments patients can live much longer without serious symptoms. Unfortunately, the problem is matching the right treatment to the right patient.
Personalized medicine would allow researchers to give patients the treatment that will be most effective and cut down on wasting time.