Blood Tests May Save Cancer Patients From Chemo

The specific blood test has shown the potential to detect scraps of cancer cells following surgery that could spare thousands of patients from unnecessary chemotherapy every year.

A major bowel cancer trial is investigating whether this test can determine if all tumors have been removed during surgery. This UK study recruits nearly 1,600 bowel cancer patients.

The gold-standard treatment is to have intravenous chemotherapy after surgery to clear up any remaining tumor cells and reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. But the chemotherapy used in bowel cancer, oxaliplatin, can lead to painful tingling and numbness in the hands and feet, called peripheral neuropathy.

Blood tests work by examining microscopic traces of cancer in the bloodstream called circulating tumor DNA. These markers indicate whether the patient is cured by the surgery or not. These tiny fragments are invisible on a scan. The trial, TRACC, uses a test created by the US company Guardant Health. The test results come back within around two weeks.

Dr. Naureen Starling, the principal investigator on trial, said, "50% of patients with stage 3 bowel cancer are treated with surgery alone, so we are over-treating a large cohort of patients. This specialized technology could spare many cancer patients from unnecessary chemotherapy and save cost, hence rendering a win-win situation."

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