For patients with advanced breast cancer, frequent testing is required to provide information about whether a treatment is working. Right now the only way to do that is with expensive, infrequent scans that are not sensitive enough to pick up on small changes in a person’s cancer.
Professor Guilford and his team want to replace scans with an inexpensive alternative that can be performed as often as needed and is capable of picking up on the smaller changes that scans may miss.
The key? Pieces of DNA released into the bloodstream by breast cancer tumours.
The DNA, known as circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) reflect cancer size and allow doctors to monitor treatment effectiveness using personalised blood tests. “ctDNA could provide faster feedback to patients and doctors, so that minimal time is wasted on treatments that aren’t working,” says Guilford.
A clinical trial involving 50 advanced breast cancer patients in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin is currently underway. If the trials are successful, advanced breast cancer patients could be more easily monitored, resulting in faster treatments and a better chance of survival.