Cancer treatments have leaped to new heights since the disease was first diagnosed. It has now extended its reach to improve a patient’s chances of full recovery. In fact, many kinds of cancer are already considered as treatable, thanks to the hard efforts of the medical community.
These advancements began as an idea and were then explored in laboratories, verified through clinical trials and further research. It is fascinating to see how an idea can progress to the point that it is now able to save countless lives.
Liquid biopsies are among these revolutionary ideas. According to Roche, “a liquid biopsy is a simple and non-invasive alternative to surgical biopsies which enables doctors to discover a range of information about a tumor through a simple blood sample.” As the name implies, bodily liquids are used in this kind of biopsy, including blood, saliva, and urine.
It works with the simple premise that a cancerous cell or tumors leave traces in the blood. Referred to as tumor DNA, doctors can look for these markers in the liquid biopsy samples. From then on, they can glean the benefits of knowing such information. This is used to detect early-stage cancer, as well as determine the efficacy of a treatment plan. The latter is to be tackled on this blog.
What is T-cell Transfer Immunotherapy?
To get a better understanding of how tumor DNA in the blood can influence a cancer patient’s treatment plan, it is important to understand what T-cell transfer immunotherapy is.
According to the Cancer Research Institute (CRI), “adoptive T-cell transfer is an anti-cancer approach that enhances the natural cancer-fighting ability of the body’s T-cells by removing immune system cells, growing and/or making changes to them outside of the body, and re-infusing them back into the patient.” In other words, it is the strengthening of a patient’s immune system cells and reintroducing them to the body when the cells are strong enough.
While there is currently no FDA-approved adoptive T-cell transfer technique, several promising techniques are being explored in clinical trials and have shown promise in the treatment of several cancers. Among these cancers are lymphoma, neuroblastoma, leukemia, metastatic melanoma, and synovial cell sarcoma. It is also being explored for other cancers.
Among these techniques are as follows:
- The patient’s T-cells are collected from a sample and are multiplied in a laboratory;
- The collected T-cells are genetically modified to attack antigens on cancer cells
- The collected T-cells are equipped with chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) which recognize and attack cancer cells
How do tumor DNA in the blood affect t-cell transfer immunotherapy?
This is where it gets even more interesting. Since the new form of therapy is still being studied, doctors needed a way to determine if it is effective. So they did a retrospective analysis of blood samples from patients who had the treatment and identified patterns of changes in the patient’s blood. Tumor DNA in the blood was then examined to see if the patient had a complete response, partial response, or no response, to medication.
The study was astounding in terms of determining the efficacy of a treatment. In fact, the researchers were able to see if a cancer treatment is working within two weeks by merely examining the tumor DNA in the patient’s blood!
They explained that the tumor DNA become evident in a patient’s bloodstream when cancer cells are eliminated from the body. Once eradicated, these cells release the tumor DNA which then circulates the body. If the patient is on an immunotherapy treatment, the doctors can examine these DNAs to see if the treatment is hitting its targets.
The researchers culled data from clinical trials at NCI in the 2000s. They gathered blood samples from 39 patients who had advanced melanoma, and who received T-cell transfer immunotherapy. The researchers used a mutated form of the BRAF gene to serve as a circulating market. This gene is present in all patients.
Blood samples were collected from the patients before and after therapy. From their small pool of respondents, the researchers saw that ten patients had complete responses to the medication, 14 had partial responses, and 15 did not respond to the treatment at all. In the patients who responded completely to the treatment, 9 out of 10 had increased BRAF DNA in their blood in the first two weeks after treatment. The researchers also saw that majority of the cancer-killing facility of the treatment occurred within five to nine days of the treatment. Deriving from this data, the researchers then hypothesize that those who did not have a spike in their blood meant that they did not respond to the treatment and would therefore probably need a different course of action.
The present state of medicine
Today, circulating markers are being used in many patients, particularly those who need monitoring due to their high risk of relapsing. By measuring the tumor’s responses to immunotherapy, and perhaps, other forms of treatment, they are then able to address a specific patient’s need and improve the treatment plan. With a clear-cut idea of what works for a patient and not, this patient will then have a more favorable odd of conquering cancer.
However, the use of tapping circulating tumor DNA in a patient’s blood to mark the efficacy of treatment is just gaining traction. In time, the world will be able to benefit from this medical advancement, which can, therefore, spell better relief for the pain. Once immunotherapy has been approved by the FDA, and once it has been put into place in cancer treatment, then it will only be a matter of time before many patients can take advantage of this new technology.
About New Hope Unlimited
New Hope Unlimited provides the most comprehensive treatment of chronic degenerative diseases and immune disorders. We offer a cross between conventional and alternative treatments to combat cancer, with emphasis on improving a patient’s quality of life and addressing the cause of the disease. Our holistic treatment plans are designed to protect and strengthen the body’s natural defense systems. Call us today at 480-666-1403 to know more about our treatments.