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Scientists working on behalf of Cancer Research UK have developed a new method of tracking how tumours evolve within cancer patients, and any subsequent resistance to drugs that may occur, by monitoring simple changes in the blood of a cancer patient.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge used traces of tumour DNA found in the blood of sufferers in order to the track the progress of the disease as it altered over the course of time, building up resistance to chemotherapy treatments.
They examined six patients suffering from advanced forms of breast, ovarian and lung cancer, taking blood samples over the course of their treatment.
Using this method, they were able to identify several changes in the blood that could be linked to drug-resistance.
Experts hope that the findings will allow them to gain a greater understanding of how tumours develop resistance to drugs and will also provide an opportunity to find alternative way of collecting tumour DNA.
Dr Nitzan Rosenfeld one of the study's authors said: "We've shown that a very simple blood test can be used to collect enough tumour DNA to suggest to us what parts of the cancer’s genetic code is changing and creating tumour resistance to chemotherapy or biologically-targeted therapies.
"We hope that our discoveries can pave the way to helping us understand how cancers develop drug resistance as well as identifying new potential targets for future cancer drugs."
Cancer Research UK's director of clinical research Kate Law added that the research would help scientists find the answers as to why tumours develop in the way they do.
She also said that the blood test could potentially give the option of an approach to treatment of cancers, tailored to the needs of each patients, and improve the effectiveness of drugs.
The study at the University of Cambridge comes amid similar findings by US researchers in Washington who, using BEAMing technology, managed to detect cancer-driving gene mutations in the blood of patients.
Written by Martin Lambert
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