News / Health

    Blood Test May Revolutionize Cancer Treatment

    A blood sample is run across a microchip that is treated with a special glue that only collects cancer cells
    A blood sample is run across a microchip that is treated with a special glue that only collects cancer cells

    Multimedia

    Carol Pearson

    One of the most exciting developments in cancer research in the past decade involves trials going on right now at four cancer treatment centers in the United States. The centers are using a highly sensitive, new blood test developed at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The test may revolutionize the way cancer is treated.

    As tumors grow, they release cancer cells into the blood stream. This new test promises to detect the smallest traces of cancer cells circulating in the blood.

    Dr. Dennis Haber, one of the researchers, said, "For every one tumor cell in the blood, there are over a billion blood cells in circulation. So that's the big challenge in a test that can pull out one in a billion cells."

    In the new test, a blood sample is run across a microchip that is treated with a special glue. Then, Dr. Mehmet Toner said, "All these cells go through the chip, but only cancer cells are recognized by the chip and they stick to the chip."

    The healthy cells pass on. The hope is that by measuring the number and types of cancer cells in the blood, doctors can tell whether a patient's treatment is working.

    Dr. Elmer Huerta is a past president of the American Cancer Society. "What I try to do if I give a treatment is to see if the tumor is shrinking and is disappearing in an X-ray, a CT scan, or an MRI," he said.

    But it is sometimes months later before a biopsy or X-ray shows if the treatment is working.  And critical time is lost if the cancer continues to grow. With the new test, doctors will know immediately if the patient still has cancer. "That is the avenue that is opening before our eyes is that the follow-up of cancer patients will be much more guided and much more precise," said Dr. Pearson. "If we use this technology well, we will find the recurring cases earlier and we will treat them accordingly with new medications."

    Greg Verttos, in the clinical trial in Boston, has advanced cancer. "This would really allow prompt response. And for me, that would really make all the difference in the world," he said.

    Right now, the trials are limited to cancer patients. But the technology raises a question: could a blood test be developed for seemingly healthy patients?

    Breast cancer specialist Dr. Susan Love says not now. "We all have cancer cells in our bodies that are not really causing any problem.  What we have to be careful of with this new technique, is over-treating the dormant cells which were never going to give us any problem in our attempt to get every cell we can see," she said.

    The trials are expected to run for about five years.  In the meantime, Dr. Huerta says people have to be vigilant. "While we wait for this technology to flourish and to mature, we have to remember that cancer is silent and, although imperfect, the best things we have nowadays to detect early cancer are pap smears, mammograms, fecal occult blood, colonoscopies and prostate examinations. And of course, a clinical examination by a doctor," he said.

    If the trials are successful, researchers hope to make the test widely available.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora