Detecting changes in cancer DNA
In patients with breast cancer, doctors usually use needle biopsies to assess the type of breast cancer that the patient has. However, the DNA of the tumor is not usually monitored for any changes in the genetics that could occur over time. Researchers believe that if physicians could detect and monitor how tumors evolve over time, they could gain valuable information about the patient and their cancer that could work in combination with other available tests to determine a more accurate plan of action that would ultimately benefit the patient.
In this particular study, which was led by Dr. David Guttery and Professor Jacqui Shaw and published in the medical journal, Clinical Chemistry, the researchers first demonstrated that the test could accurately detect changes in cancer DNA by using cell-line models in the lab. The researchers then studied the DNA found in blood samples that were donated by 42 women who each had advanced breast cancer and were able to identify cancer-specific genetic changes in half of the samples donated. None of the gene mutations could be detected in the samples that were given by women who did not have cancer, leading the researchers to assume that the genetic changes were due to having cancer.