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Blood Test Stops Cancer Return

Credit: Rob Byron/adobe

Credit: Rob Byron/adobe

By Jeanne Tie, Belinda Lee & Peter Gibbs

The ability to detect cancer DNA in a patient’s blood could enable doctors to predict the risk of cancer recurrence and track the success of treatments like chemotherapy in real time.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Despite advances in screening and treatment, bowel cancer continues to be a major health burden, accounting for about 700,000 deaths per year worldwide. Unfortunately, Australia has one of the highest incidences of bowel cancer in the world, and bowel cancer contributes to nearly 11% of cancer deaths in this country.

At the time of initial diagnosis approximately 80% of patients with bowel cancer have apparently curable tumours that appear to be limited to the bowel, with no evidence that it has spread to elsewhere in the body. However, following successful surgery to remove this bowel cancer, a significant minority of these patients are destined to experience cancer recurrence elsewhere in the body in the following years, reflecting the fact that the cancer must already had spread at diagnosis but it could not be detected using our current standard blood tests and scans. If these patients had been treated with chemotherapy after the surgery, about one-third of these cases would have been prevented by eradicating the microscopic residual cancer cells responsible for the cancer’s return.

In order to estimate the risk of recurrence, an examination by pathologists of the bowel cancer removed at the time of surgery is undertaken. This specifically looks for features of the cancer that are associated with a higher recurrence risk.

For example, the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.