Blood tests can predict how prostate cancer will respond to treatment and whether a patient will relapse
Blood tests can predict how prostate cancer will respond to treatment and whether a patient will relapse, research shows
- The liquid biopsy was tested on more than 1,000 blood samples from 216 men
- High levels predicted worse disease outcomes, which can guide treatment
- Lower levels indicated that the men responded better to the drugs
- The test is cheaper and less painful than standard tissue biopsies
A simple blood test can help mark when men with prostate cancer don’t respond to treatment or are more likely to relapse.
The ‘liquid biopsy’ was assessed for efficiency on more than 1,000 blood samples from 216 men with advanced prostate cancer treated.
Researchers led by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London discovered that the test can detect traces of cancer DNA in the bloodstream.
High levels predicted that the disease would progress more quickly, while large reductions over time suggested that the treatment worked.
It can lead to tailor-made treatment for people in the advanced stages of the disease and can help doctors decide when to stop taking medicines that are not working as well.
Liquid biopsies are also a less painful and less invasive method than commonly used tissue biopsies.
A simple blood test can help mark when men with prostate cancer don’t respond to treatment or are more likely to relapse (stock)
The study looked at blood samples from men who were part of a clinical trial of the intended drug abiraterone with or without an experimental drug, ipatasertib.
The results showed that men with high tumor DNA had a significantly worse outcome at the start of treatment.
Their disease worsened two and a half months earlier than those negative for ‘ctDNA’ at the start of treatment.
The team looked at blood samples with repeated tests during treatment and found that those who responded to treatment had the greatest drop in the amount of cancer DNA in their bloodstream.
Cancer DNA decreased by 23 percent – while those who responded partially to treatment had a 16 percent decrease.
Men whose prostate cancer got progressively worse or remained the same saw only a decrease of one percent or four percent, respectively.
Scientists also found that analysis of DNA from the blood tests revealed specific genetic changes in the blood that indicated drug resistance. This could indicate that a man was at risk of an early relapse.
Professor Johann de Bono, professor of experimental cancer medicine at the ICR and consultant medical oncologist at The Royal Marsden Trust, said, ‘Our study shows that a simple blood test can help us track how cancer evolves and responds to treatment – initially as part of clinical trials and ultimately in routine care.
These so-called liquid biopsy tests are minimally invasive, cost effective and can be performed often and easily.
“Monitoring prostate cancer with a blood test instead of a painful surgical biopsy can significantly improve patients’ quality of life.”
Professor Paul Workman, ICR’s CEO, said, “These simple blood tests detect traces of cancer circulating in the bloodstream and help us anticipate the next step in cancer.
“They can help doctors create personalized treatment plans and stay one step ahead of the disease.
This study demonstrates the value of liquid biopsies as a guide to therapy. They are a faster, friendlier and more flexible alternative to traditional tissue biopsies and will become a gold standard for cancer treatment. ‘
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with more than 47,500 men diagnosed each year, according to UK prostate cancer.
The study, conducted with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) virtual annual meeting.
WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER?
How many people does it kill?
Prostate cancer first became a bigger killer than breast cancer, official statistics revealed last year.
In Britain, now more than 11,800 men a year – or one every 45 minutes – are killed by the disease, compared to around 11,400 women who die from breast cancer.
It means that prostate cancer is behind the lung and intestine only in terms of the number of people it kills in Britain. In the U.S., the disease kills 26,000 every year.
Despite this, it receives less than half of breast cancer research funding – while treatments for the disease are lagging by at least a decade.
How fast does it develop?
Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there may not be any signs that someone has had it for years, the NHS.
If the cancer is early and does not cause any symptoms, a “watchful waiting” or “active surveillance” policy may be followed.
Some patients can be cured if the disease is treated early.
But if diagnosed at a later stage, when it has spread, it becomes terminal, and treatment is all about relieving symptoms.
Thousands of men are put off to diagnose because of the known side effects of the treatment, including erectile dysfunction.
Tests and treatment
Prostate cancer tests are haphazard, with accurate tools just starting to emerge.
There is no national prostate screening program, because the tests have been too inaccurate for years.
Doctors struggle to distinguish between aggressive and less severe tumors, making it difficult to decide on treatment.
Men over 50 are eligible for a “PSA” blood test that gives doctors a rough idea of whether a patient is at risk.
But it is unreliable. Patients who get a positive result usually get a biopsy that is also not infallible.
Scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes prostate cancer, but age, obesity, and lack of exercise are known risks.
Anyone who is concerned can call Prostate Cancer UK specialized nurses on 0800 074 8383 or visit prostatecanceruk.org