New Way to Preserve Tumor Biomarkers in Blood Could Lead to Better Treatment Decisions

New Way to Preserve Tumor Biomarkers in Blood Could Lead to Better Treatment Decisions
Massachusetts General Hospital researchers have come up with a way to prolong the life of cancer cells circulating in the bloodstream. Tests in prostate cancer patients indicated that the breakthrough could help doctors do a better job of analyzing tumor cells, including detecting cancer biomarkers. This could lead to better treatment decisions. The new method keeps most of the tumor cells alive for up to three days, compared with a major loss of the cells within a few hours under current preservation methods. The study, “Whole blood stabilization for the microfluidic isolation and molecular characterization of circulating tumor cells,” appeared in the journal Nature Communications. Cells that detach from a tumor and enter the bloodstream are called circulating tumor cells, or CTCs. Several studies have concluded that CTCs are a predictor of a poor patient outcome. The upside is that doctors can use them to diagnose the severity of a tumor and how to treat it, researchers say. As a result, doctors take pains to recover and analyze these rare cells. Using blood samples to track a tumor's evolution is much less invasive than obtaining tissue samples. A key problem has been preserving CTCs for study, however. More than 60 percent die within five hours of a blood sample being taken. In addition, there is significant deterioration of RNA in the CTCs that survive. This degradation makes it more difficult for doctors to obtain an accurate picture of the state of a person's cancer. Preserving blood samples is key to obtaining accurate information about tumors. But the current prese
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