A new blood test revealed more of the gene mutations that sustain certain digestive-tract tumors than did a DNA analysis of a traditional tumor biopsy, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute investigators reported in an April 6, 2013 press conference at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting in Washington, D.C., April 6-10, 2013. The findings (Abstract LB-295) will also be released in an oral presentation on Tuesday, April 9, 3:35 – 3:50 p.m., ET, in Salon A-B, East Hall, in the Washington Convention Center. The results come from a study in which researchers used advanced amplification technology to search for abnormal DNA circulating in blood samples from patients in a clinical trial of a new therapy for gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST). GIST is a mutation-driven cancer of the digestive system that arises in approximately 5,000 people in the United States each year. The technique is particularly valuable, the investigators said, because it can comprehensively detect many different cancer-related mutations from multiple tumors within a single patient, whereas conventional biopsies are able to provide information only on small bits of tumors which are sampled. At a time when therapies are increasingly targeted at specific cancer-causing mutations and where resistance to such therapies is known to be caused by other mutations, it is important for doctors to know the full slate of mutations in all the cancer cells within a patient. Because different GIST cells within a single patient can have different sets of mutations, biopsies of one or two tumors often uncover only a portion of the mutational landscape.
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