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How a simple blood test could spot cancer earlier

作者:叔孙椋    发布时间:2017-11-24 03:00:26    

Science Photo Library By Linda Geddes CASEY LIM (not her real name) was 11 weeks pregnant when she gave a blood sample to test for Down’s syndrome. It revealed multiple abnormalities in fragments of DNA circulating in her blood. Further analysis showed that the mutant DNA wasn’t from the fetus but from Lim’s own white blood cells. A form of blood cancer called follicular lymphoma, which she had battled two-and-a-half years earlier, had stealthily returned. Lim was one of the lucky ones. All too often, cancers are caught only after they have spread and mutated into subtly different forms. This ability to evolve and resist our best treatments is what makes cancer such a formidable foe. One way to root out its weaknesses is to repeatedly remove chunks of tumour for analysis, but that is invasive and often risky. So how do we keep an eye on a cancer’s ominous transformations, figure out the best way to treat it and check that it is not stealthily growing back? The answer could be written in blood. A test based on tiny bits of DNA released into the circulation by cancer cells might even give doctors a way to catch the disease earlier. “The best time to treat cancers is when there are very few cancer cells, when there are fewer chances for them to develop resistance,” says Bert Vogelstein, director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Genetics and Therapeutics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore,

 

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