Blood Test Could Save Thousands From Unnecessary Chemo

Cancer patients could be spared chemotherapy and its debilitating side effects, thanks to a new blood test.

Melbourne researchers are trialling the test on bowel and ovarian cancers and say it could eventually be rolled out to cover more types.

Associate Professor Jeannie Tie is a clinician scientist at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and is the trial lead.

The blood test will show if the cancer will return, saving thousands from unnecessary chemotherapy.

“We are estimating we are over-treating 80 percent of patients who don’t need chemotherapy,” Tie said.

“While chemotherapy is an essential, life-saving treatment, we don’t want patients receiving it if they don’t need it.

“We want to help these patients avoid serious and ongoing side-effects association with chemotherapy.”

The trial is looking at whether patients can be assessed after surgery using a simple blood test to determine whether they need chemotherapy or not.

The ctDNA test looks for fragments of tumour DNA in a patient’s blood after the tumour has been surgically removed.

One of the trail participants, Hugh McDermott, underwent surgery for bowel cancer and then had the test.

The ctDNA test will look for tumour fragments in the blood after the tumour is removed by surgery.

“That blood test was negative so I haven't had chemotherapy and it's now about 13-14 months since the operation and everything is fine,” he said.

More than 40 hospitals across Australia and New Zealand are taking part in the trial.

If it’s successful, the blood test could be rolled out to all hospitals in the next five to 10 years.