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A study from the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer at Georgetown has claimed that by means of a simple blood test, it seems that the doctors may be able to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment more accurately for patients who are suffering from metastatic breast cancer.

The experts apparently measured the amount of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in blood which are said to be gathered from women who may be in need of a new treatment regimen for metastatic breast cancer. This was conducted by means of a FDA-approved CellSearch technology.

Apparently around one tablespoon of blood was supposedly collected, when the patient began a new therapy. This same procedure was claimed to be performed again at three to four week intervals. The quantity of CTCs were apparently linked with disease response or progression, which are believed to be determined by standard radiology studies, for example, CT scans, which are supposedly conducted every nine to twelve weeks. Various treatments including chemotherapy, endocrine therapy and combination therapy with a biologic agent were supposedly given to the patients.

Based on earlier studies, a CTC count of 5 was apparently used as the threshold. Disease progression was claimed to be linked with a CTC count of five or more i.e. per 7.5 ml of blood.

Minetta Liu, M.D., lead investigator and director of translational breast cancer research at Lombardi, commented, “There was a highly significant correlation between the CTC result and the radiographic findings. The correlation was as significant for blood samples drawn at the time of imaging as it was for blood samples drawn as early as nine weeks before imaging. This advanced knowledge may allow us to determine much sooner if a therapy is ineffective so that we can change therapy earlier, avoid unnecessary side effects from agents with no treatment benefit, and potentially make more significant improvements in survival.”

Liu was of the opinion that the outcome of the study apparently supports supervising CTCs to supposedly direct the timing of radiology studies.

Liu mentioned, “We order scans at regular intervals because of convention. If we waited to obtain radiology studies in response to new symptoms, suspicious routine laboratory findings, and/or a shift in the CTC count from less than five to five or more, we could limit the number of scans needed and reduce health care costs, personal time away from family and work, and radiographic and contrasts exposures. This could have a very positive impact on a patient’s quality of life.”

The study concluded that the findings support the role of CTC enumeration as an adjunct to standard clinical and radiographic methods of monitoring disease status in metastatic breast cancer.

Additional clinical studies to further confirm the value of CTC enumeration in patient management are supposedly being conducted by Liu.

These findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.