UK-based scientists have developed a new three-in-one blood test able to identify the patients with advanced prostate cancer most likely to benefit from PARP inhibitors, with the potential to "transform" treatment of the disease.
By testing cancer DNA in the bloodstream, researchers from The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, were also able to pick out patients not responding to treatment so that they could be switched to alternative therapy in just four to eight weeks.
"Not only could the test have a major impact on treatment of prostate cancer, but it could also be adapted to open up the possibility of precision medicine to patients with other types of cancer as well", said Johann de Bono, Professor at The Institute of Cancer Research, London.
Other previous studies have also found that various chemicals found in foods such as turmeric, apple peels and green tea could potentially be beneficial in helping to ward off cancer, by minimising one of the risk factors for disease, inflammation within the body.
The new test, reported in the journal Cancer Discovery, was developed with the help of 49 patients enrolled in a clinical trial investigating the effectiveness of olaparib.
"This is another important example where liquid biopsies - a simple blood test as opposed to an invasive tissue biopsy - can be used to direct and improve the treatment of patients with cancer".
Olaparib is good at killing cancer cells that have errors in genes that have a role in repairing damaged DNA such as BRCA1 or BRCA2.
This type of precision drug is seen as the future of cancer medicine but because it is a targeted treatment, the drug does not work for everyone. In contrast, cancer DNA levels rose by 2.1% in patients who did not respond.
Cancer DNA dropped by nearly half in men who were responding to the drug.
The scientists also conducted a detailed investigation of the genetic changes in cancer DNA among men who stopped responding to olaparib.
"We think it could be used to make clinical decisions about whether a PARP inhibitor is working within as little as four to eight weeks of starting therapy".
They found that the cells acquired genetic changes that cancelled out the DNA fix defects making them susceptible to the drug.
According to BBC, Cancer Research UK said the test could "greatly improve survival". "That is why Prostate Cancer UK is investing so heavily in this area, including supporting this research released today".