Scientists have developed a blood test that can help predict how a glioblastoma patient – the aggressive brain cancer who claimed the life of deceased senator John McCain – will live.
The test can detect levels of broken DNA fragments floating around the bloodstream.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania discovered that people with lower levels of the DNA fragments, known as cell-free DNA (cfDNA), lived nearly twice as long as people with higher levels of the biomarker.
Moreover, they believe that their discovery can help doctors to follow the many and frequent mutations that cause the progression of glioblastoma and make it so difficult to treat.
Scientists have developed a blood test that revealed that glioblastoma patients with high levels of a biomarker lived half as long after diagnosis as patients with lower levels. It also detected previously missed mutations that could help doctors improve treatments for individual patients
John McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma in July 2017 – one of the most common and deadliest forms of brain cancer in adults.
On August 25 of the following year, the senator and former presidential candidate died.
The average survival time of the diagnosis is only 15 to 16 months – and for many patients it is much shorter.
One of the reasons that glioblastoma is so deadly so fast is that it is difficult to treat.
And glioblastoma is difficult for various reasons.
First, glioblastoma tumors contain mass & # 39; s. Different parts of the disease have very different profiles and are fed by different genetic mutations, so a treatment that keeps the growth of one part of the tumor at bay can do nothing for another part – or more parts.
The disease is often in its later stages by the time it is diagnosed, and brain scans are not particularly good ways to track how the disease spreads and grows.
The result is that doctors do not know exactly what to look for or what to look for and that the cancer is often one step or more ahead of their tracking and treatments.
Amanda Johnson was only 30 years old when doctors gave her 16 months to live.
If she hadn't had surgery at the University of California, Irvine, to remove the huge tumor from her brain, Amanda's survival time might not have been more than a few days, her father, Larry said. Fox.
Even after the Amanda operation had bought a little time, her family was destroyed by the grim prognosis they received, and the unknown of her illness caused fear to say the least.
But the new blood test could help answer some of those questions and give doctors the tools to tailor treatments to each patient.
The research team compared tissue and blood or fluid biopsies taken from 42 glioblastoma patients to see which signs can be consistent in the two diagnostic measures and how they can predict survival times.
The 28 patients who had a lower concentration of cfDNA in their blood before surgery survived an average of 9.5 months without their cancers progressing.
But patients with higher levels of the DNA fragments lived on average for only 4.9 months from the time their blood samples were taken.
Dr. Daniela Bota (left) at UC Irvine recruited Amanda Johnson (right), 30, among 700 glioblastoma patients, to receive an experimental drug that targets tumor stem cells. As scientists learn more about the DNA mutations that cause brain cancer, treatments improve
When the study authors further analyzed the blood of 20 of their patients, they discovered that more than half (11) of them had signs in their blood of at least one genetic mutation that could drive the cancer that was not detectable in the tissue biopsies.
& # 39; If liquid biopsy can give us a more complete picture of the molecular profile of the tumor, we can choose potentially more effective combinations for each patient & quot ;, says Dr. Stephen Bagley, lead author of the study and professor at Penn.
& # 39; If our findings are validated by further studies, this would mean that these patients may be given a simple blood test that could give us a more accurate assessment of whether or not their disease has progressed, as well as more data about the disease. mutations in their tumors. & # 39;
For the time being, glioblastoma patients are irradiated with aggressive radiation and chemotherapy and are often removed as much as possible from their tumors by surgery.
Getting treatment better specified for glioblastoma means racing to enter clinical trials for most patients, including Amanda.
The frantic investigation of her family led Amanda to Daniel Daniel Bota and her 700-person clinical trial for adult patients to undergo treatment with a drug called Marizomib.
The drug travels into the brain and attacks the stem cells that cause the tumor cells.
After receiving infusions from Marizomib three times a month for two years, Amanda's tumor has shrunk so much that so many visual scans cannot measure it.
Although it is too early for Dr. Bota to use the blood test developed by the Penn researchers, it may one day be an additional way to verify that Amanda, now 30, is at a lower risk of the cancer coming back And even treatment can help patients like them.
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