"Liquid Biopsies" Zero in on Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer genes detected in patient plasma

(RxWiki News) Having a biopsy - which retrieves and analyzes tiny bits of a tumor - can be an invasive and expensive proposition. A new method may one day involve only blood samples to look for and identify genes that are out of whack.

Examining the blood for DNA mutations that are linked to specific cancers is now a step closer to reality with the development of a sophisticated tagging method.

"Find out which genetic test will be performed on your tumor."

Pinpointing faulty DNA in the blood is like looking for a needle in a haystack about the size of a football field. This feat is now possible.

Tim Forshew, of Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute, and colleagues have developed a method called tagged-amplicon deep sequencing (TAm-Seq) that can analyze large genomic regions to look for faulty genes.

Using this method, the team was able to zero in on genetic alterations in the blood of patients who had high-grade serous ovarian cancer.

They were looking for genes that are known to be involved in the evolution and growth of cancer - TP53, EGFR, BRAF and KRAS.

Researchers analyzed the plasma of 38 patients. The authors report they were able to pick up the TP53 gene. They also found in one patient's tumor an EGFR mutation that hadn't been noticed 15 months earlier.

The team reports it was also able to find genetic information that forecast the clinical course of ovarian and breast cancers.

The study, which was published May 30, 2012 in Cancer Genomics, was supported by Cancer Research UK, the University of Cambridge, National Institute for Health Research Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, Cambridge Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre and Hutchison Whampoa Limited. 

Three of the authors reported financial interests with various companies reported on in this study. These individuals "may stand to gain by publication of these findings." 

Review Date: 
May 30, 2012