'Fluid biopsy' could transform cancer treatment by making tumour cells glow in the dark
Cancer treatment could be transformed by a new 'fluid biopsy' technique that spotlights tumour cells in the bloodstream, scientists say.
Researchers in the U.S. have developed a way of attaching fluorescent 'tags' to cancer cell proteins, making them glow under special light conditions.
A new 'fluid biopsy' technique has been developed that spotlights tumour cells in the bloodstream – making them glow (pictured)
The technique – successfully tested on patients with breast, prostate and pancreatic cancer – paves the way to 'real time' assessment, therefore speeding up treatment of disease.
Study author Professor Peter Kuhn, from Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, said: 'If we can assess the disease in real time, we can make quantitative treatment decisions in real time.
'These decisions include predictive decisions about therapeutic response, diagnostic decisions and prognostic decisions about outcome.'
Fluid biopsies will also be an invaluable tool for scientists which can help them unravel the mysteries of metastasis – the deadly spread of cancer from one part of the body to another – it is claimed.
The system uses dyes containing antibodies that bind to specific proteins found in circulating tumour cells (CTCs) in blood samples.
Once attached to the cancer cells they fluoresce in different colours, allowing the cells and proteins to be identified.
The resulting high resolution microscope images reveal intricate details of the cells that can be analysed in the laboratory.
Tests of the technique found five or more
CTCs per millilitre of blood in 80 per cent of 20 prostate cancer
patients, 70 per cent of 30 breast cancer patients, and 50 per cent of
18 pancreatic cancer patients.
Scripps Research Institute Associate Professor Peter Kuhn, (right) worked with physicians including Kelly Bethel (left), to develop a way of attaching fluorescent 'tags' to cancer cells
The findings are published in the Institute of Physics journal Physical Biology.
Dr Kelly Bethel, senior clinical investigator in Prof Kuhn’s team, said: 'The high definition method gives a detailed portrait of these elusive cells that are caught in the act of spreading around the body. It’s unprecedented – we’ve never been able to see them routinely and in high definition like this before.'
Dr Larry Nagahara of the US National Cancer Institute, which set up the research under its Physical Sciences in Oncology initiative, said: 'The science behind this approach, and the ability to obtain more detailed information about CTCs in a timely fashion, opens up opportunities to address some of the outstanding problems in cancer, such as drug-resistance.
'Bringing a physical sciences approach to a medical need has potential for profound consequences to greatly benefit cancer patients.'