January 8, 2015 – Residual Disease


Anchor lead: Could a new technique help identify who needs additional treatment for breast cancer and who doesn’t? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Overtreatment is a buzz word in cancer circles these days, with some experts saying that at least with early cancers, and especially early breast cancer, the majority of women might not need any additional treatment, but almost all receive it.  Ben Park, a breast cancer expert at Johns Hopkins, describes a new test to get a handle on how much cancer may remain in the body after surgery.

PARK: This allows us now to pluck out tumor DNA from the blood versus the sea of normal blood.  We first tried metastatic disease because that’s much easier to measure, the tumor burden is obviously much higher in metastatic disease.  But we actually took it a step further in ways that push the envelope of sensitivity.  And so we published a paper in a small group of women, about 29 patients, we could actually detect this in 93.3% of cases with no false positives so 100% specificity.  :26

Park says studies on the test are slated for expansion to validate these results, but he’s optimistic that this or a similar strategy can be used to assess residual disease and the need for follow-up.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.