Detecting Skin Cancer Relapse with Simple Blood Test

New research has shown that a basic blood test can effectively detect skin cancer relapse in patients with advanced melanoma.

New research has shown that a basic blood test can effectively detect skin cancer relapse in patients with advanced melanoma.

The study from the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute collected blood samples from seven patients with advanced melanoma at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust to examine DNA tumors that flowed into the blood stream — known as circulating tumor DNA.

The research team found that tracking levels of circulating tumor DNA enabled them to see when new genes appeared.

This discovery would indicate a relapse, which could prove the tumor had become resistant to treatment.

According to the study, 40 to 50% of melanoma patients have the faulty BRAf gene. Although they can be treated with the targeted drugs vemurafenib or dabrafenib, the treatments don’t work for many patients.

However, in this case, patients can be offered other immunotherapy drugs like pembrolizumab, nivolumab, and ipilimumab — the earlier it’s discovered, the earlier their chances of survival.

Richard Marais, PhD, the study’s lead author, remarked in a statement, “Being able to spot the first signs of relapse, so we can rapidly decide the best treatment strategy, is an important area for research. Using our technique, we hope that one day we will be able to spot when a patient’s disease is coming back at the earliest point and start treatment against this much sooner, hopefully giving patients more time with their loved ones.”