A new blood test could potentially help predict the success of certain cancer treatments.
Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) discovered that they can predict drug resistance in patients with advanced prostate cancer using the assay. Cancerous prostate cells grow using testosterone produced in the body, binding to a receptor that initiates further division and growth.
Co-leader of the study from TUM, Dr Matthias Heck, said: “If we know in advance whether or not a tumour has developed cells with this receptor, we can provide advice on an individual basis at an early stage – this can spare seriously-ill patients from undergoing an ineffective therapy.”
If a tumour has become large enough and started metastasis, drugs such as abiraterone and enzalutamide are used initially. They can either prevent testosterone binding to prostate receptor cells or block testosterone production. The most common receptor for prostate is AR-V7
The new blood tests are different from previous tests as it analyses the amount of AR-V7 RNA molecules present rather than detecting specific tumour cell structures. If high levels of AR-V7 RNA molecules are detected, it is likely that the patient will have tumour cells resistant to both enzalutamide and abiraterone.
Co-author of the study, Dr Silvia Thöne, said: “Only minute amounts of RNA are needed in a sample for the test to work. Additionally, since AR-V7 RNA is present in every tumour cell that possesses the resistant receptors, it means that no tumour cells are slipping by undetected.”
At the moment, the blood tests used to detect prostate tumour cells are time-consuming and expensive due to the equipment required for the tests. TUM research analysed blood samples from 85 patients and were able to show that 20% had large amounts of AR-V7 RNA. These same patients failed to respond to either treatment given to them.
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