BALTIMORE — More than 3.8 million women in the United States have breast cancer, and typically after treatment it takes awhile for doctors to detect if the cancer is gone.
However, researchers at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center are working on a way to get faster results.
It's a simple blood draw.
Researchers take the plasma, put it in a laboratory solution, then it goes inside a cartridge to be placed inside a machine, finally doctors wait for results for about five hours.
It will be a huge game changer for patients, the test is called the Liquid Biopsy for Breast Cancer Methylation, the goal is to accurately detect the presence of cancer using just blood from patients. It’s noninvasive and can help oncologists identify if cancer treatments are working.
That DNA, which is coming from the cancer, can be detected in the blood by using this device.
So what is that DNA?
It is DNA that's called methylated DNA.
These are very specifically methylated in the tumor, which is why we’re able to communicate, there is a tumor because you see these molecules in the blood, said Saraswati Sukumar, Professor of Oncology, Senior Study author Saraswati Sukumar, Ph.D.
In other words, researchers might be able to use this device, and within one or two weeks of treatment, tell the oncologist this treatment is not working.
The device also offers a cheaper option for quality health care, instead of women undergoing weeks of treatments that may not work, this technology saves patients time and money by quickly indicating to oncologist if the treatment is working or not.
"This will reduce costs considerably. Not only financially but also to her health. There is no need to be exposed to toxic chemotherapies for weeks, if it's simply not working," Dr. Sukumar said.
Researchers say this will not only help women, but men as well.
"We found that indeed, whether it is men or women, and we have tested this very thoroughly, the same genes that are methylated in women's tumors are methylated in the men's tumors, irrespective of whether the tumor is from a man or a woman, the same markers, and the same test will benefit both," Dr. Sukumar said.
Researchers hope in a few years it will be ready to not only detect breast cancer but other cancerous cells as well.
“The LBx-BCM cartridge assay offers advantages over existing technologies in that it is technically sophisticated, yet simple to conduct and only takes 5 hours to complete. Typical tests of this type take a week or more to get results. Our hope is that it will be used at “point of care”, such as in a doctor’s office or small clinical testing laboratory and will provide real-time feedback soon after a patient’ visit. This ancillary assay will better serve doctors and patients with advanced breast cancer to provide an important early indicator of the patient’s response to therapy during treatment,” said Mary Jo Fackler, Research Associate at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.