Blood test shows cancer evolution

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SCIENTISTS have developed a new way of looking at how tumours evolve and develop drug resistance, with a simple blood test.

Research published in the journal Nature found researchers were able to examine tumours in depth by tracking changes in the patients’ blood.

The scientists at the University of Cambridge used traces of tumour DNA found in cancer patients’ blood to follow the progress of the disease as it changed over time and developed resistance to chemotherapy treatments. Six patients with advanced breast, ovarian and lung cancers were followed, with blood samples taken over one to two years.

By looking for changes in the tumour DNA before and after each course of treatment, the scientists were able to identify which changes were linked to drug resistance.

The researchers hope the findings will help shed new light on how cancer tumours develop resistance to the most effective chemotherapy drugs.

It should also provide an alternative to current methods of collecting tumour DNA, which involve taking a sample direct from the tumour – a much more difficult and invasive procedure.