Researchers on the groundbreaking TRACERx study claim to have discovered a way in which unstable chromosomes may help to identify tumor recurrence up to a year before traditional testing methods are capable of detecting it.
Data showed that patients whose tumors contained unstable chromosomes were 400 percent more likely to experience tumor recurrence or succumb to the disease in two years or less. Researchers postulated that this correlation stems from the increased genetic diversity of tumors with unstable chromosomes.
This discovery led to a second study that investigated whether a clinical test could accurately identify level of tumor diversity. Blood samples from 96 out of the 100 study participants allowed them to prove that they could monitor genetic diversity in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) by tracking pieces of DNA that had detached from a tumor.
Using this technique, they analyzed blood from 24 patients who had undergone surgery for NSCLC. The detached tumor DNA allowed them to correctly identify more than 90 percent of patients who would ultimately relapse. This identification occurred as many as 12 months before clinical imaging studies could identify tumor recurrence.
Study authors note that these findings suggest a new way of monitoring treatment success and preventing relapse, the latter of which occurs in as many as half of patients who undergo NSCLC surgery. Ultimately, identification of tumor-resistant DNA may ultimately lead to treatments that target genetically diverse tumors, which are more likely to resist traditional interventions.