A new blood test may help detect the spread of melanoma – skin cancer – much earlier according to latest findings. The blood test monitors DNA fragments from dead cancer cells in the blood and has been found to be more effective than current testing methods.
Senior investigator Dr. David Polsky said, “Our study results show that circulating tumor DNA is a superior blood test for evaluating and tracking progression of metastatic melanoma.”
The current test available to track the spread of melanoma measures enzymes called lactate dehydrogenase (LDH). LDH rises during aggressive tumor growth however, it can also increase due to other diseases and biological functions, according to the researchers.
The new blood test measures circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) released into the blood when tumor cells die.
The researchers found that ctDNA were elevated in 80 percent of patients about to undergo treatment for advanced melanoma and LDH levels were only elevated in 30 percent.
Additionally, ctDNA also detected cancer recurrence which was confirmed by CT or X-ray in 85 percent of patients. LDH testing only revealed this in 54 percent of patients.
Researchers believe measuring ctDNA could also be useful in the detection and tracking of other cancers like breast cancer or colon cancer.
The findings were published in Molecular Oncology.