Tracking Cancer

February 1, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Part of cancer treatment involves a guessing game about which patients will respond to chemotherapy. Now, a simple blood test can give patients and doctors, the answer.You would never know that just a few hours before she was making brownies with her kids, Ivelisse (eve-ah-lease) Page was told her stage-three colon cancer returned. She was diagnosed just months ago. She had the tumor and 15 inches of her colon removed.

A new personalized blood test may be able to help Ivelisse decide her next plan of attack.

Dr. Luis Diaz an oncologist At Johns Hopkins said, "It can tell you how much tumor you have, if you're responding to therapy or surgery or radiation."

As cancers grow, they shed fragments of DNA, laced with mutated genes, into the bloodstream. Researchers at Johns Hopkins developed a test to measure those mutated genes. In a study of 18 patients, the blood test not only identified cancer in all of them, but also measured the level of cancer.

Diaz said, "Right now when you get a biomarker test or even a CT scan, that might give you a hint of how much tumor you have, but it's not going to tell you exactly how much tumor you have that you can or can't see."

The test may also help predict who will get cancer.

Diaz added, "Ultimately what we would ultimately like to do is to give this test to everyone in the country and tell them, you know, we're concerned you have a cancer because the causative mutation that causes cancer is found in your blood.

Ivelisse hopes this test will help people like her make the right decision for themselves and their families. She said, "None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. What we are guaranteed is today and making the most of it with our family and our loved ones."

Doctors said the test can be applied to any cancer that is linked to a known gene mutation, including breast, colon, lung and prostate cancers.

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