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Revolutionary New Skin Cancer Test

by kelly / January, 20 2016 01:30
Revolutionary New Skin Cancer TestImage © Armin Kübelbeck

I just read some fantastic news that I had to share - researchers recently discovered a new blood testing method that tracks metastatic melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer. I'm hoping this means they could detect and treat melanoma earlier. This remains to be seen, but wouldn't it be great!

The new test tracks the spread and severity of advanced melanoma by monitoring the level of dead cancer cell DNA fragments in blood samples. When tumor cells die, they break apart and release their contents into the blood. The DNA from these contents are called circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA).

According to one of the lead researchers of this new test, Dr. David Polsky from NYU Langone Medical Center:

"Our study results show that circulating tumor DNA is a superior blood test for evaluating and tracking progression of metastatic melanoma"

Today the progression of melanoma is tested by measuring the level of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) in the blood. LDH levels rise as cancer grows but they also increase due to other diseases and biological functions. Thus the LDH test is not as accurate as the ctDNA test.

In the study of 31 patients with inoperable metastatic melanoma - the patients had both tests done:

"The study found that blood levels of ctDNA were elevated in 80 percent of patients about to undergo treatment for the advanced melanoma. Blood levels of LDH were elevated in just 30 percent of such patients, the study showed."

ctDNA in the study was also able to detect cancer recurrence, as confirmed by X-ray or CT scan, in 85% of the patients tested while LDH only detected it 54% of the time.

Dr. David Polosky also mentioned their were benefits to the ctDNA blood test beyond skin cancer such as helping monitor the progression of breast and colon cancer.

This is all good news in the on-going fight against skin cancer and cancer in general. Better ways to detect and track cancer can only be a boon to the fight.

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