Novel Platelet RNA Test Finds Cancer In Single Drop of Blood

Novel Platelet RNA Test Finds Cancer In Single Drop of Blood

  • A blood-based platelet RNA test that uses the equivalent of one drop of blood can identify patients with cancer, differentiate between cancer types, and even pick out mutant biomarkers, say European researchers.

In a study published online November 9 in Cancer Cell, the team reports that RNA from “tumor-educated” platelets containing tumor-associated biomolecules could distinguish cancer patients from healthy individuals with an accuracy of 96%.

webmd.ads2.defineAd({id:’ads-pos-520′,pos: 520}); Furthermore, the test, which may eventually help in cancer diagnosis and guide treatment selection, could differentiate six primary tumor types with an accuracy of 71%, as well as identify specific breast and lung cancer mutant biomarkers.

Coauthor R Jonas A Nilsson, PhD, department of radiation sciences, oncology, Umea University, Sweden, told Medscape Medical News: “Earlier and better diagnosis is a crucial element in curing patients or turning the disease into a manageable, more chronic disease.”

“Our technology has the potential to contribute to that goal. It is our objective to show that we can deliver tests that allow costs to be saved at other points in the healthcare system.”

The test complements other liquid biopsy tests that detect portions of tumor cell somatic mutant DNA shed into the circulation or released when tumor cells die, which as reported by Medscape Medical News, could allow tumors to be detected, measured, and tracked.

Indeed, two studies in a range of cancer types showed that circulating (ct)DNA tests can identify tumors at a very early stage, monitor tumors for metastasis, and even pinpoint treatment resistance. However, these applications are not ready for transfer to the clinic.

There are crucial differences between the ctDNA tests and the current mRNA test, however. Terence Friedlander, MD, from the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, San Francisco, who did not participate in the study, noted: “Current ctDNA tests generally focus on profiling a predefined panel of genes, and report whether or not a mutation is detected.”

“These ctDNA tests therefore do not distinguish between different tumor types; rather, they provide additional insight into possible mutations within a known tumor. Because not all tumors will have detectable mutations, current ctDNA tests are not designed to screen patients for occult cancer, and may not be reliable in detecting recurrence of cancer after definitive treatment,” he pointed out.

He told Medscape Medical News: “In contrast, the platelet mRNA methodology described here may be more multifunctional, in that it can distinguish between a cancer patient and a healthy donor, may be able to detect the type of cancer present and, if validated in future studies, detect recurrent cancers.”

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