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

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

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.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs