New Test May Determine if Mesothelioma is Gone
Researchers from Johns Hopkins have created a test that can identify if and when a tumor is coming back after a patient has undergone initial treatment. Blood tests are compared with the unique genetic cancer sequences from the original tumor to tell whether surgeons removed all of the cancerous cells, whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, or whether the cancer is coming back. Called the PARE approach, researchers believe the test could be used to develop biomarkers for any cancer including mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma, an unusual form of cancer caused by exposure to airborne asbestos fibers, often has a complex growth pattern making complete surgical removal a very difficult task. The goal of the surgery is to achieve a macroscopically-complete resection, which refers to the removal of all visible tumor cells. Finding hidden cells can be close to impossible making a test like this critical to the treatment of both pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma.
Led by Victor E. Velculescu, MD, PhD, the team found that each patient’s cancer is unique, which is the key to this new test that may revolutionize cancer treatment. The team identified nine unique tumor characteristic rearrangements at the ends of its chromosomes that together serve as the tumor’s fingerprint. PARE is named for this finding: personalized analysis of rearranged ends.
This test is not yet widely available and the cost, around $5,000 per patient, may be prohibitive to some. Johns Hopkins University holds the patent on PARE.