Researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research in London have developed a blood test that can help predict testicular cancer relapse. The new diagnostic examination is said to help clinicians make a decision whether or not a patient must be recommended for chemotherapy.

Through the new test, the degree of relapse risk is identified even if there are no indications of tumor spread by assessing three characteristics of testicular cancer.

To test the effectivity of the modality, the researchers obtained data from the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit and studied 177 tumor specimens from enrolled patients diagnosed with stage I nonseminomatous tumors.

The researchers found that there are three diverse features of the tumors that can essentially help in determining the risk of relapse. The indicators include levels of CXCL12, an antimicrobial gene and chemoattractant; the proportion of the tumors that appear to have cancer stem cells and the presence of blood vessels in the tumors.

The researchers then rated the tumor according to the indicators and discovered that putting the scores together could separate the participants into three risk categories based on the likelihood of developing a relapse within two years. Developing a relapse is said to be rare after two years.

The researchers found that most of the patients fell under the low-risk group, in which 94.3 percent of patients were relapse free for the specified period. In the group of patients with moderate risk, 65.9 percent were relapse free, while only 30 percent of those in the high-risk group were relapse free for two years. 

To further validate the results of the test, the researchers employed the method to 80 more patients from the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

"Chemotherapy is extremely effective in treating testicular cancer, but it can have long-term consequences for a patient's health and well-being," said Janet Shipley, lead author of the study and a professor of cancer molecular pathology. She explained that their research has resulted in the development of an examination that can determine patients who will most likely benefit from treatments and those who can be managed without chemotherapy, saving them from possible side effects.

Shipley further explained that patients under the low-risk category can simply be monitored. Such strategy is essential to this specific type of cancer so as to lessen the side effects of chemotherapy, which could affect young adults for a long period of time.

"We now need to test this prognostic index in larger groups of men in the clinic," said Robert Huddart, one of the study authors and a professor of urological cancer.

Testicular cancers or testicular germ cell tumors are the most typical kind of solid malignant tumors among young Caucasian men.

The study was published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research on Friday, Oct. 9.

Photo: Neeta Lind | Flickr

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