Researchers have found that a microchip-based device can be used to identify whether cancer patients are appropriate for targeted treatment.
The device detects and analyses circulating tumour cells (CTCs) – living cells from solid tumours such as lung cancers – which are found at extremely low levels in the bloodstream, thereby allowing the genetic signature of lung tumours to be detected.
The researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in the US analysed blood samples from 27 patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer. They were able to identify mutations in a protein, epidermal growth factor receptor, which affect the response of lung tumour cells to drugs called tyrosine kinase inhibitors.
“The CTC-chip opens up a whole new field of studying tumours in real time,” said Daniel Haber, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and lead author of the study.
“The device should give us new options for measuring treatment response, defining prognostic and predictive measures, and studying the biology of blood-borne metastasis, the primary method by which cancer spreads and becomes lethal.”
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