New Gene-Based Blood Tests Identify More Metastatic Melanomas: Tests Based on Circulating Tumor DNA (ctDNA) May Improve Detection of Recurrence & Speed Related Treatment

Genetic testing of tumor and blood fluid samples from people with and without one of the most aggressive forms of skin cancer has shown that two new blood tests can reliably detect previously unidentifiable forms of the disease. Researchers at the New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center and its Perlmutter Cancer Center, who led the study, say having quick and accurate monitoring tools for all types of metastatic melanoma, make it easier for physicians to detect early signs of cancer recurrence. The new blood tests, which take only 48 hours, were developed in conjunction with Bio-Rad Laboratories in Hercules, California. Currently, the tests are only available for research purposes. The new tools are the first, say the study authors, to identify melanoma DNA in the blood of patients whose cancer is spreading and who lack defects in either the BRAF or NRAS genes, already known to drive cancer growth. Together, BRAF and NRAS mutations account for over half of the 50,000 cases of melanoma diagnosed each year in the United States, and each can be found by existing tests. But the research team estimates that when the new tests become available for use in clinics, the vast majority of all melanomas will be detectable. "Our goal is to use these tests to make more informed treatment decisions and, specifically, to identify, as early as possible, when a treatment has stopped working, cancer growth has resumed, and the patient needs to switch therapy," says senior study investigator and dermatologist David Polsky, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Polsky presented his team's latest findings at the 2017 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), on April 2 in Washington, D.C. The meeting is taking place April 1-5. Dr. Polsky is the Alfred W.
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