Blood test could help predict skin cancer's return

December 05, 2017

Cancer Research UK scientists have discovered that testing skin cancer patients' blood for tumour DNA could help predict the chances of an aggressive cancer returning.

Published in the Annals of Oncology* today (Wednesday), the findings could pave the way to identifying patients who are most at risk of their disease returning, and who might benefit from new immunotherapy treatments.

Led by researchers based at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute and The Christie NHS Foundation Trust**, scientists studied blood samples taken after surgery from 161 patients*** with stage 2 and 3 melanoma. They then looked for faults in two genes that are linked to 70% of melanoma skin cancers - BRAF and NRAS.

After five years, 33% of patients who had a positive blood test for faults in either of the two genes were alive, compared to 65% of those who did not.

The results also revealed that skin cancer was much more likely to return within a year of surgery in patients who had faults in either of the two genes.

Each year around 15,400 people in the UK are diagnosed with malignant melanoma. And while survival has doubled in the last 40 years, around 2,500 people die from the disease every year in the UK.

Professor Richard Marais, lead researcher and director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, based at the University of Manchester, said: "For some patients with advanced melanoma, their cancer will eventually return. We have no accurate tests to predict who these patients will be, so our findings are really encouraging. If we can use this tumour DNA test to accurately predict if cancer is going to come back, then it could help doctors decide which patients could benefit from new immunotherapies. These treatments can then reduce the risk of the cancer spreading. The next step is to run a trial where patients have regular blood tests after their initial treatment has finished in order to test this approach."

Professor Karen Vousden, Cancer Research UK's chief scientist, said: "Being able to develop an early warning system that will predict if a cancer will return could make a real difference to patients. Research like this shows that for some cancers, there may be ingenious solutions - such as a blood test. If follow up research shows that this test can be used to inform treatment decisions and improve outlook, it could be a game-changer in our ability to deal with advanced skin cancer."
-end-
* Lee, R. J., Circulating tumor DNA predicts survival in patients with resected high risk stage II/III melanoma. Annals of Oncology (2017)

** The study also involved researchers based at Warwick University, Oxford University and Cambridge University Hospital.

*** Samples were collected as part of the AVAST-M trial which compared bevacizumab vs. placebo in 1,343 patients with resected high risk stage II/III melanoma.

Cancer Research UK

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.