Researchers Find Novel Way Of Detecting Skin Cancer From Gene-Based Blood Tests


Skin cancer, or melanoma, is one of the most common skin diseases, which has plagued the United States for some time. It is estimated that roughly $343.1 million goes toward the treatment of skin cancer in the country, causing an economic loss of $127 billion.

Detecting skin cancer, or signs of skin cancer recurrence, is not as simple as it sounds. However, a new study has successfully discovered a way to detect previously unidentifiable forms of the disease.

Blood Tests Detect Skin Cancer

The study was conducted by NYU Langone Medical Center and its Perlmutter Cancer Center. The researchers reveal that if doctors are provided with accurate and faster monitoring tools for metastatic melanoma, it could help them detect signs of cancer recurrences beforehand.

The study shares that two new types of blood tests can unfailingly identify different forms of skin cancer. Genetic tests of blood fluid samples and tumors of individuals with and without skin cancer can help detect the presence of the disease.

The idea of the new blood tests was developed in collaboration with Bio-Rad Laboratories, which is situated in Hercules, California. These tests take only 48 hours to detect unidentifiable skin cancers and its signs, and are presently available and used for research purposes only.

How Will The Test Detect Skin Cancer Signs?

David Polsky, a senior member of the study, stated that the new tests will observe the DNA fragments' blood levels. These are known as circulating tumor DNA or ctDNA. Once the tumor dies or disintegrates, the ctDNA dissipates into the blood stream.

The blood tests mainly spot the changes in the mutations of a gene that control TERT or telomerase reverse transcriptase. TERT is a type of protein, which assists cancer cells in upholding the physical composition of the chromosomes.

Polsky noted that in the context of monitoring skin cancer, the new tests may have more benefits than current ones. This is because the new blood tests steer clear of radiation exposure, which occur during CT scans. Moreover, these tests can be performed easily and offer faster results.

Skin Cancer Study

To arrive at this conclusion, researchers examined results taken from the new tests. These tests were conducted on 10 samples of tumor, which were collected from melanoma patients admitted in NYU Langone. The team also examined four samples of blood plasma taken from patients with and without skin cancer.

The results of the blood tests matched accurately in all cases of metastatic melanoma, which were known to be negative or positive.

"Our goal is to use these tests to make more informed treatment decisions and, specifically, to identify as early as possible when a treatment has stopped working, cancer growth has resumed, and the patient needs to switch therapy," said Polsky.

Further Research

Polsky stated that the researchers intend to conduct further study on the DNA-based blood tests. This will be done to observe the evolution of metastatic melanoma, as well as find alternate cures. Researchers would also attempt to determine whether some cancers having TERT mutations are identifiable or not.

Polsky and team presented the findings of the study at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research on April 2 at Washington, D.C.

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