New blood test to replace organ examinations in cancer medicine

Zurich – The University of Zurich and the University Hospital Zurich have further developed an analysis method for cancer medicine. It is based on blood samples instead of biopsies. This is quick and easy to carry out and hardly burdensome for the patient. The aims are early cancer detection and individualized therapies.

The University of Zurich (UZH) and the University Hospital Zurich (USZ) are reporting progress in the further development of cancer therapy: according to a press release, researchers have developed an analytical method that uses blood tests to gain insights into cancer incidence.

Instead of examining organs for cancer cells as was previously the case, the liquid biopsy now under investigation uses blood analysis to determine tumor spread and activity. Specifically, free DNA fragments circulating in the blood ("genetic material snippets of the cells") would be sequenced and examined.

Blood samples can be taken more quickly and easily in everyday clinical practice, as they reduce the organizational effort required for diagnostic interventions. Those affected would have to wait less time for results. Diagnostics and forms of therapy could be tailored more individually in future. For their study, the researchers examined blood from patients who had been treated with radiotherapy.

The procedure is suitable for all phases of cancer treatment and is independent of the tumor. According to the cited UZH researcher Zsolt Balázs from the Institute of Quantitative Biomedicine, the application leads to an earlier and faster risk assessment, brings improvements in therapy monitoring during aftercare and serves the early detection of a relapse. "The more a tumor metastasizes, the worse the patient's quality of life. This also applies to local recurrences that are not detected early," says co-first author Panagiotis Balermpas, Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the USZ. ce/heg

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