Cancer Research UK has published research that could help match cancer patients with no other treatment options to clinical trials with experimental medicines.
The matching would work by analysing the genetic faults in a sample of their blood, according to research published in Nature Medicine.
The researchers, funded by Cancer Research UK, The Christie Charity, AstraZeneca and the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), demonstrated in their feasibility study that a blood test can be carried out and analysed in a timeframe that can help clinicians select a matched, targeted treatment.
Patients currently receive an invasive tumour biopsy, to determine whether they are eligible to enrol based on their type of cancer, a method which is often months or years old and may not represent a patient’s current disease due to their tumours’ evolutionary changes over time.
However, researchers have now found that a small volume of blood can contain up-to-date genetic information about a patient’s cancer to inform treatment choices. In this feasibility study of the first 100 patients, 11 were enrolled onto an available and molecularly matched clinical trial.
Dr Matthew Krebs, the lead clinician of the study from The University of Manchester and The Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This study is bringing clinicians and scientists together to develop a new approach to treating patients with advanced cancers.
“Historically, patients who have exhausted other options but are still reasonably well might access a clinical trial based on their cancer type, but without that new therapy being targeted to their tumour's particular genetic profile. Now, that paradigm is shifting toward personalised medicine. By understanding the genetic faults underpinning a patient’s cancer from a blood test, as demonstrated in this study, this raises the hope of matching more patients to a specific targeted clinical trial treatment with better chance of benefit.”
The authors caution that while this study is promising, not every patient will have identifiable and ‘druggable’ faulty genes in their blood, nor will every patient have the opportunity to receive a treatment tailored to their cancer.