A blood test can predict which lymphoma patients will respond well to normal treatment and which may need a more aggressive approach, researchers report.
Their study included 217 patients with diffuse large B cell lymphoma, the most common type of the blood cancer non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The blood test checks levels of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in patients before and after therapy. It could tell doctors within days or weeks how a patient is responding to treatment, removing the need to wait five or six months for therapy to end, according to the researchers.
"Although conventional therapy can cure the majority of patients with even advanced B cell lymphomas, some don't respond to initial treatment," said study co-senior author Dr. Ash Alizadeh, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford University.
"But we don't know which ones until several months have passed. Now we can predict nonresponders within 21 days after the initiation of treatment by tracking the levels of ctDNA in a patient's blood. We can look earlier and make a reliable prediction about outcome," Alizadeh explained in a university news release.
Dying cancer cells release circulating tumor DNA into the blood. It can provide important information about the course of the disease and the effectiveness of therapy.
Previously, researchers found that tracking ctDNA can predict lung cancer recurrence weeks or months before a patient has clinical symptoms.
The new findings "confirm the value of tracking cancer genetics in the blood in real time," Alizadeh said. "We are thinking about how to use the tools to best benefit patients, and are very excited to test this approach in other types of cancers."
The study was published Aug. 20 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The American Cancer Society has more on non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
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