Each year, there are many new advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment. Liquid Biopsies (tests to determine the presence and type of cancer, using blood instead of a tumour tissue sample) are a new tool in managing cancer and can be used in real-time diagnosis, treatment monitoring, checking for recurrences, and determining if new targeted therapies such as immunotherapy are right for you.
Check out Issue 3 of the CTOAM newsletter to see the top life-saving advancements in cancer! Or, read more below.
Do you want to have life-saving information delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for our monthly newsletter!
Top Life Saving Advancements in Cancer | Liquid Biopsies
To see real life success stories on how CTOAM has used Liquid Biopsies to change lives, take a look at Damian’s and Katherine’s stories.
Most of the time a biopsy is performed, it is to test the tumour tissue for cancer cells. What has been discovered recently though, is that every cancer tumour naturally sheds some of its mutated cell DNA into the bloodstream. Science has evolved so that now we don’t need to take a tissue biopsy from a cancer patient in order to ensure they are getting the best possible care. Instead, we can now use a simple blood test to look in your body for these cancerous cells and find out which mutations are making them grow.
This liquid biopsy process can be used for diagnostics and early detection, but is also highly effective when the genetic sequencing of a person’s cancer has already been completed and we now want to ensure their targeted therapy or immunotherapy treatment is working.
A simple blood test shows you, within one week, whether your cancer is growing, slowing, or gone!
Liquid biopsies can identify cancer-causing mutations in as little as 0.02% of your total DNA. This means it can tell you when a tumour is present in your body before it shows up on even the most advanced imaging tool (such asPET/CT
How are Liquid Biopsies Life-Saving?
At CTOAM we use liquid biopsies in a number of ways. Each have a significant and positive impact on the outcome of our patients’ cancer care and quality of life.
1. Testing for Inherited Mutations
Cancer has just 2 main causes at its base: Inherited mutations (those we are born with based on the genes we received from our mother and father) and/or Acquired Mutations (mutations to our DNA that occur through lifestyle choices or environmental factors). Liquid biopsies can easily test for both of these forms of mutations.
This information can then be used for numerous purposes including identifying your best cancer treatment options (those that will provide you the best outcomes with the least side-effects) and to aid you and your family members (in the case of inherited mutations) in preventing the development of cancer. We do this through a simple program of dietary and lifestyle changes, which are designed to target your cancer causing mutations directly!
2. Treatment Monitoring
Once we know what mutated gene(s), whether inherited or acquired, to look for, we can use a liquid biopsy to track the efficacy of a treatment in real-time, much earlier, and less expensively, than waiting for imaging of the tumour to determine growth or shrinkage.
For instance, if prior to treatment there was 8% of the mutated gene cells in the blood, and after three weeks of treatment there is now 5%, then we know the treatment is working. If, however, there is still 8% or more, then corrections in the treatment need to made. This technique can save significant time so you don’t have to wait for a treatment course to be complete before you know if it is working well or not.
You can remain on your current treatment regimen with greater confidence or you can immediately switch to your next treatment option. There is no guessing about how things are going, and no time is wasted, and that is crucial with cancer.
3. Cancer Recurrences
Liquid biopsies can also be used as a simple, but very precise and accurate, ‘check-up’ to check for recurrences of cancer. Once we know what mutated gene(s) to look for, we can track if the cancer has come back months before traditional diagnostics would show that anything is there.
And if a patient’s genetic testing showed that they had multiple mutated genes (a very common occurrence), it is common, over time, and even through the welcome and successful targeting of one mutation, for one of the sub-mutations to take over and start driving the cancer. Liquid biopsies can detect that change. Then we can immediately alter the course of treatment to target the gene that is now dominant, extending the lives of cancer patients by years over standard approaches to treatments and monitoring.
Liquid biopsies can be used to determine candidacy for immune checkpoint inhibitors. Because they are a blood-based test, instead of only assessing cancerous mutations at the tumour site (as with a tissue biopsy), a liquid biopsy tests the whole body all at once. A liquid biopsy can also track pseudo-progression. Pseudo-progression is a common occurrence where a tumour appears to have grown on imaging technology, but in fact, it hasn’t.
In reality, these immunotherapy treatments create a kind of inflammation in the tumour and initiate a massive die off of cells, which can make it appear as though the tumour is larger when it’s actually dying and the cancerous tissue is shrinking significantly. Without a liquid biopsy an oncologist might assume the treatment is not working, and cease the therapy, when in fact, it is being highly effective. In these cases a liquid biopsy can quickly confirm that the tumour is actually dying and ensure that a patient gets to stay on a treatment that is working well for them.
Julio’s Carcinoma Cancer Story
Julio, age 81, found us after he was told disfiguring surgery and radiation therapies were his only option. Genetic sequencing
revealed that Julio had 57 genetic mutations! That’s more than twice as many as the most we have ever seen in a patient! But, the important news, is that after engaging in CTOAM’s Precision Oncology process, he is currently cancer-free!
Why you need an Advocate!
Anyone who’s been to the doctor before knows how helpful it can be to have someone by your side for support. This person can take notes, remember important questions to ask, and ensure that you get the medical care you need. In addition, they can help to find out which doctor you should see and make an appointment. Even with standard health care
– for which there is already an abundance of information available – it’s really helpful to have someone by your side.
CTOAM’s patient advocacy services take the burden of ensuring you’re getting the best possible treatment, off of your hands, so you can rest, recoup, and enjoy the important things in life.
CTOAM Cancer Care Consultants
Science and Support For All Things Cancer
Sign up for the CTOAM newsletter to stay up-to-date on all the latest advancements in cancer treatment, diagnostics, and support.
on September 10, 2018