A new study has discovered a blood test that could strongly impact on the lives of people suffering with prostate cancer.
Researchers uncovered a new blood test which could detect those men with advanced prostate cancer who would benefit from a new drug treatment.
As part of the study, scientists analysed blood samples from around 50 men taking part in the trial of olaparib.
This was intended to examine whether the changes to tumour DNA circulating in the blood of the men could indicate if the treatment was working or not.
And scientists found that the levels of circulating tumour DNA diminished by half following four weeks of treatment, but only in those men that have the best progression-free survival.
It was also discovered that men who initially responded to the drug also experienced the development of new gene mutations which indicated when the tumour was becoming resistant to the drug and the treatment was no longer working.
The results suggest that examining tumour DNA early in the course of treatment for prostate cancer could enable doctors to understand which patients are likely to benefit from it.
The study was conducted by researchers from the UK Institute of Cancer Research, the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, the University of Michigan, and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
Funding was provided by several sources, including the Movember Foundation, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Prostate Cancer UK, and Cancer Research UK, and published in the peer-reviewed journal, Cancer Discovery.
Olaparib (brand name Lynparza) is specifically licensed for people with BRCA gene mutations.
It works by blocking a particular enzyme, poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP), and this stops the growth of tumours with BRCA mutations.
The researchers concluded that their data “supports the role of liquid biopsies as a predictive, prognostic, response, and resistance biomarker in metastatic prostate cancer”.
Nonetheless, despite the encouraging results, the small sample size means that it is far too early to draw broad conclusions.
Findings were also fairly limited, as they cannot be applied to men with metastatic prostate cancer being treated with any drug other than olaparib, nor those being treated for all the stages of prostate cancer.
Nonetheless, there are hopes that a test may in the future enable treatment to be changed at an early stage if blood results indicate that it isn’t working effectively.