Researchers from The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust (both London, UK) have developed a computer model that aims to track the evolution of bowel cancer using tumor DNA collected from blood samples. Through computer modeling developments, the group hopes their work could one day allow us to accurately predict treatment response in individual patients.
Blood samples from patients with advanced bowel cancer were collected every 4 weeks and DNA was extracted for analysis, as described in the group’s study published in Cancer Discovery. Through computer modeling, genetic changes in the tumor DNA were tracked in the hope of monitoring the development of drug resistance.
The study reports that a new computer model was able to predict the time until resistance to cetuximab would develop and cancer would return. In 75% of patients who initially responded to cetuximab, liquid biopsies picked up RAS gene changes before a CT scan was able to show that their bowel cancer had returned.
Study co-leader Nicola Valeri (The Institute of Cancer Research) explained, “Our study showed that liquid biopsies are better than traditional tissue biopsies at picking out people with bowel cancer whose tumors are unlikely to respond to cetuximab. We also found that analyzing tumor DNA from frequent blood samples can help predict cancer’s next move. Forecasting how tumors will evolve in individual people with bowel cancer could open up the very exciting possibility of using liquid biopsies for personalized, adaptive treatment.”
With researchers hailing their development as ‘weather forecasting’ only further validation will tell whether such models can reliably predict response and improve clinical practice.