An Experimental Blood Test Could Help Determine the Need for Post-Surgical Chemo

According to a story from, a new blood test that is currently in clinical trials could more accurately determine which patients will need chemotherapy to cure their cancer after undergoing a surgical operation to remove the tumor. Such a test would lead to better treatment outcomes and has implications for many different types of cancer.

One Two Punch

In many types of solid tumor cancers, a common approach to treatment is an operation to surgically remove as much of the tumor as possible. This is often followed by a regimen of chemotherapy that can last around six months. While it is routine in many places to receive this follow up chemo, not all patients will actually need it. However, doctors currently do not have a very precise manner to determine who will and who won’t.

Tumor DNA

The new blood test, which tests for the presence of circulating tumor DNA, could offer a solution to this problem. It is important for patients that do not necessarily need chemotherapy to avoid it if possible, as chemotherapy is a treatment system that produces system-wide effects that can lead to a scourge of unpleasant symptoms and, in some, cases long term negative health effects. Prior chemotherapy can even be a risk factor for causing other types of cancer later on.

The presence of circulating tumor DNA is an important indicator for the likelihood of a patient’s cancer returning after surgery. Circulating tumor DNA are fragments of genetic material which are released by cancer cells after they rupture. Rupturing occurs when they cancer cells die. If circulating tumor DNA is detected in the bloodstream of a patient after they have received surgery, there is a chance that their cancer will relapse. Generally, in patients that test negative for it, the chance of relapse is less than ten percent.

Rare Cancers

The test first began trials in 2015 and these trials first included bowel cancer patients. Now, they have extended to patients with rare ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer as well. Older methods for deciding whether a patient will need chemotherapy have not been consistent, with a number of patients deemed high risk never experiencing relapse and a number of patients deemed low risk seeing their cancer reappear. Hopefully, this new test will help resolve this issue once and for all.

Check out the original clinical trial here.

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