A Blood Test for Cancer
Health news from the media tonight reported that there is a blood test for cancer. Could this be the next medical game changer? The blood test for cancer technology was discovered by Boston scientists and is owned by Johnson & Johnson. Johnson & Johnson is promising to help bring this new blood test to the market.
How long will it take? It is expected it will take Johnson & Johnson about two years to bring this blood test for cancer to the market. This simple blood test could then be available in your doctor’s office. This year, four cancer centers will begin studies on the cancer blood test.
This new blood test is so sensitive that it can identify a single cancer cell among masses of healthy blood cells. This single cell could become indicative of major cancers such as colon cancer, breast cancer, lung and prostate cancers developing in the future. This test would be like a liquid biopsy, removing the need for painful tissue sampling. It could even replace painful mammograms and colonoscopies.
The blood test for cancer shows lots of potential and could prove more reliable than diagnosing tumors through needle biopsies which don’t always provide enough of a sample for doctors to evaluate and then prescribe a possible method of treatment.
The following excerpt of this exciting health news from MSNBC.com explains further.
The only test on the market now to find tumor cells in blood — CellSearch, made by J&J’s Veridex unit — just gives a cell count. It doesn’t capture whole cells that doctors can analyze to choose treatments.
Interest in trying to collect these cells soared in 2007, after Haber and his colleagues published a study of Mass General’s test. It is far more powerful than CellSearch and traps cells intact. It requires only a couple of teaspoons of blood and can be done repeatedly to monitor treatment or determine why a drug has stopped working and what to try next.
“That’s what got the scientific community’s interest,” Kris said. Doctors can give a drug one day and sample blood the next day to see if the circulating tumor cells are gone, he explained.
The test uses a microchip that resembles a lab slide covered in 78,000 tiny posts, like bristles on a hairbrush. The posts are coated with antibodies that bind to tumor cells. When blood is forced across the chip, cells ping off the posts like balls in a pinball machine. The cancer cells stick, and stains make them glow so researchers can count and capture them for study.
The test can find one cancer cell in a billion or more healthy cells, said Mehmet Toner, a Harvard University bioengineer who helped design it. Researchers know this because they spiked blood samples with cancer cells and then searched for them with the chip.
Studies of the chip have been published in the journals Nature, the New England Journal of Medicine and Science Translational Medicine. It is the most promising of several dozen that companies and universities are rushing to develop to capture circulating tumor cells, said Bob McCormack, technology chief for Veridex.
The agreement announced Monday will have Veridex and J&J’s Ortho Biotech Oncology unit work to improve the microchip, including trying a cheaper plastic to make it practical for mass production. No price goal has been set, a company official said, but the current CellSearch test costs several hundred dollars.