Scientists have developed a simple blood test that can predict how ovarian cancer patients are likely to respond to chemotherapy treatment.
In a study of 40 patients with high grade serous ovarian cancer, the researchers from the University of Cambridge, monitored tumour DNA that could be detected in a blood sample taken before each chemotherapy treatment. By measuring the levels of the mutated cancer gene TP53, researchers found those who responded well to treatments had a rapid fall in the levels of this circulating DNA.
The researchers tested levels of this circulating tumour DNA in patients before and after treatment. The results showed that it took longer for the disease to progress in patients whose tumour DNA count in the blood fell by more than a half after one cycle of chemotherapy, compared with patients whose DNA count did not drop.
“There’s a need for a test to find out quickly whether ovarian cancer patients are benefiting from chemotherapy. These are early results, but if bigger trials are successful, this test looking at the tumour DNA circulating in the blood could be a cheap, quick and easy way to get this information,” said James Brenton from the University of Cambridge.
Further, the level of tumour DNA in the blood was found to reflect the amount of cancer seen on scans carried out before chemotherapy. This test may be particularly useful for patients with high grade serous ovarian cancer because the mutated cancer gene TP53 is found in more than 99 per cent of patients with this form of the disease, the researchers said.
“This could be a good way to test new types of drugs that target cancer cells specifically and spare patients the side effects from treatments if they are not working,” Brenton noted, in the study published in the journal PLOS Medicine.