Entries in Blood Test (8)


Breast Cancer: Blood Test Spots Wayward Tumor Cells

Photodisc/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- A simple blood test can help predict the recurrence of breast cancer, a new study has found. The question is: Will it save lives?

The test detects cancer cells in the blood that have broken free from a tumor in the breast, like seeds that have fallen from a tree.

"The greater the number of seeds you sow, the greater the chance they'll take hold and grow," said study author Dr. Anthony Lucci, a surgical oncologist at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Lucci and his team followed more than 300 women diagnosed with non-metastatic breast cancer for up to eight years, and found those who had cancer cells in their blood were five times more likely to relapse or die from breast cancer. Women with high levels of circulating tumor cells were 10 times more likely to relapse or die during the study period.

The results, published Tuesday in The Lancet Oncology, could help identify breast cancer patients with a high risk of recurrence. But the jury's still out on whether those patients should be monitored more frequently or treated more aggressively.

"I think we need to be patient," said Lucci, stressing the need for clinical trials to tease out the test's true value. "The natural urge is to run the test; have more information. But we don't know how best to use that information."

The test can reliably detect a single cancer cell in 7.5 milliliters of blood. But to become a tumor, that cell has to evade the body's immune system and find the perfect environment to grow and divide.

"In ongoing studies we're trying to characterize the cells that break free; figure out which ones are capable of setting up shop," Lucci said.

Nearly one-quarter of the women in the study had cancer cells in their blood, according to the study. But only 15 percent of them relapsed after undergoing treatment, meaning the vast majority did not.

Breast cancer treatment is currently guided by the size of the primary tumor, whether it has spread to lymph nodes or other organs, and molecular markers, like HER2, that open the door for targeted chemotherapies. But Lucci said cancer cells in the blood may be molecularly different from those in the primary tumor.

"We detected HER2-positive cells in the blood of patients with HER2-negative tumors," said Lucci, describing the results of a separate study he recently presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago. "It raises the question of whether those patients could potentially benefit from other therapies."

But experts say it's too soon to tell whether having a single blood-borne cancer cell should influence treatment decisions.

"There's a substantial amount of interest in the technology of counting circulating tumor cells in the blood, but it's still a relatively new technology and questions remain as to how it can best guide clinical practice," said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. "At this point in time, it's difficult to say this technology would improve the care of women with breast cancer."

Until the test is proven to provide information that can refine and improve care for women with breast cancer, it's not ready for primetime, Lichtenfeld said. "This information is interesting, but ultimately it's how it impacts patient care that's most important."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: New Blood Test Can Screen Teens for Depression

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Blood tests have long been the diagnostic standard for diagnosing teenage diseases, such as mono and diabetes.  Now, researchers have developed a blood test that can diagnose depression in teens, a step they hope will lead to a better way to identify the disorder in young people.

Currently, diagnosing depression depends entirely on a patient's willingness to report symptoms -- and a doctor's ability to interpret them.  For teens, the diagnosis is particularly challenging, given the natural emotional ups and downs of adolescence.

"Teenagers are extraordinarily vulnerable to depression," said Eva Redei, author of the study and a professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.  "And there are no objective, biological measures for evaluating them for depression."

In the study, published Tuesday in the journal Translational Psychiatry, Redei and her team developed a test that looks for markers in the blood of teens with major depressive disorder.  By studying rats that had genetic and environmental predispositions for depression, the researchers were able to pinpoint 26 markers of major depression.

They looked for these markers in the blood of 28 human teenagers, ages 15 to 19, half with depression and half without.  They found that 11 of the markers showed up in the depressed teens, but not in teens without depression.

They were also able to distinguish different subtypes of depression, successfully identifying teens who suffered from depression alone and depression combined with anxiety disorders.

"The uniqueness of this study is that we showed that it can be done.  The technology is available to make this diagnosis," Redei said.

Experts say there is a great need to diagnose depression early in life, particularly among teens.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 11 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds develop major depression at some point in their adolescence.  Reports from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration are slightly lower -- in 2008, 8.3 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds dealt with depression.

The disorder puts teens at greater risk for other health dangers, including substance abuse, physical illness and suicide.  Also, when depression begins earlier in life, the chances that it will persist and perhaps worsen in adulthood are great.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Leukemia Patient Nearly Dies; Twin Has Idea to Save Thousands

Courtesy of Graham Douglas(NEW YORK) -- For nearly 18 years, Graham and Britton Douglas believed they were fraternal twins.  That was until Britton needed a bone-marrow transplant because chemotherapy for his leukemia had failed.

The Fort Worth, Texas, brothers learned that they were identical twins, sharing the same DNA, and therefore Britton could not receive his brother's bone marrow because their genetic make-up was too similar to fight the cancer.

Today, at 27, Britton Douglas is a healthy, successful Dallas lawyer, thanks to a bone marrow donation by a stranger.  But Graham, knowing that he nearly lost his only sibling, has been on a mission for nearly a decade to find better ways to get more Americans to become donors.

He came up with a simple concept that could save the lives of tens of thousands of Americans with leukemia who are waiting for a bone-marrow transplant: packing a swab kit inside a box of bandage strips.

A senior creative at the New York City advertising agency Droga 5, Graham found his inspiration last year while teaching a portfolio class at a commercial arts school.

Year after year, he has challenged his students to find a creative solution to attract more donors.  Two students he refers to as the "Spanish team" -- Alfredo and Alberto -- came up with the "germ" of an idea last year, and it has now hit the market.

The consumer healthcare company Help Remedies partnered with Graham and the world's largest bone marrow donor center, DKMS, to release the new product -- "help I've cut myself & I want to save a life."  The cost is $4.

Before applying a bandage strip to a minor cut, consumers can swab their blood and then send the sample in a self-addressed, stamped envelope, along with their age and email address, to DKMS.

The donor center will then follow up to get more information on how the consumer can become a donor.  All potential donors are anonymous and there is no obligation to donate bone marrow, even if a match is found.

The three-year-old start-up Help Remedies is known for its minimalist packaging and unusual product names.  For now, the over-the-counter marrow registry kit is only available on its website.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Blood Test May Help Diagnose Depression

Hemera/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- A blood test may eventually help diagnose depression, according to a new study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

In the study, which was funded by Ridge Diagnostics -- the firm that developed the blood test -- researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston analyzed the levels of nine biomarkers that could distinguish patients who had a major depressive disorder from those who did not.

The biomarkers analyzed were associated with inflammation, neuron development and stress response in brain structures. The blood test results were then scored on a scale that researchers created for the study.

“Traditionally, diagnoses of major depression and other mental disorders had been made based on patients’ reported symptoms, but the accuracy of that process varies a great deal, often depending on the experience and resources of the clinician conducting the assessment,” Dr. George Papakostas, lead author of the study, said in a statement.” Adding an objective biological test could improve diagnostic accuracy and may also help us track individual patients’ response to treatment.”

The pilot study included 36 adults who had been diagnosed with major depression, and 43 healthy control study subjects. The test accurately pinpointed depression in 90 percent of previously diagnosed depressed patients.

Many patients deny they are depressed because of the stigma associated with depression, said Dr. Harold Koenig, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center, so the test could be useful in taking away the shame of the disease and getting more people treated, he said.

But a blood test diagnosis can come with a big downside.

“[Some] patients might truly have depression and have a negative test, and then their symptoms might be discounted by family members and by health professionals, since depressive symptoms or emotional feelings are entirely subjective and there is no way to verify these symptoms,” said Koenig. “This could place a huge burden on patients who are already suffering, and be told that they really don’t have depression because they had a low score on a less than perfect test.”

The biomarkers could also be influenced by other disease patterns, said Cynthia Kuhn, a professor of pharmacology at Duke University Medical Center.

“It will be important to see if [the blood test] can discriminate depression from related disorders,” said Kuhn. “It is unlikely that the blood test alone would be appropriate.”

It is important that physicians focus on patients’ symptoms, along with biologic and genetic factors, said Dr. Carol Bernstein, associate professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine.

“Patient-centered care should be exactly that and outside of specific diseases that have clear genetics... medicine cannot be reduced to simple tests,” said Bernstein. “Disease states are complex and depression is no exception.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Can a Blood Test Determine How Long People Will Live?

Comstock/Thinkstock(DALLAS) -- A new blood test could potentially offer some proof that many people really are older than they look.

The test, set to go on sale to the British public later this year, measures the length of a person's telomeres, which are the pieces of DNA at the ends of chromosomes. As cells keep dividing with age, the telomeres get shorter and shorter. By measuring telomeres, some scientists believe they can determine biological age, which doesn't always equal chronological age.

"That means some people may be biologically older or younger than their age," said Jerry Shay, professor and vice chairman of cell biology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Shay is also on the scientific advisory board of Life Length, the manufacturer of the test about to be sold in the United Kingdom. "The test will tell you within about a decade what your biological age is."

Research on telomeres is an expanding and important scientific area, as evidenced by the awarding of the 2009 Nobel Prize in medicine to three American geneticists who studied these small DNA segments.

Anyone interested in taking the 500 euro (about $700) test needs to see a doctor to get blood drawn. The blood will then be sent to a laboratory, and results are generally available in about a month, though the company says it can get results in about a week if necessary. Other companies sell telomere tests as well.

Shay stressed that although the test is an indicator of biological age and is possibly a factor in determining life span, it cannot definitively predict how long a person will live.

"If you have really short telomeres, that doesn't mean you're going to die in the next year or two," Shay said. "It's really for the average person who's just curious his or her general health."

He also said people who may be concerned about disease in their family may also be interested to know about how quickly their bodies are aging.

While Shay and other proponents of the test say it can provide people with valuable information that can encourage them to adopt healthier lifestyles, others say it is little more than a waste of money.

"If your telomeres are much shorter than most people your age, that could be a red flag that perhaps you need to do something to try and reverse the conditions that led to that," such as adopting a healthier lifestyle, said Shay.

"You don't need a 500 euro test to tell you that you need to exercise and eat right," said Dr. James Evans, editor-in-chief of Genetics in Medicine, the journal of the American College of Medical Genetics.

The results may not be very useful to most people since many factors affect longevity.

"Research has shown that lifespan is determined by both genetic and environmental factors and therefore a test examining one measurement, may not accurately predict this process," said Heidi Tissenbaum, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. "More research is needed to show the connections between telomere length and a person's life span."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Could Blood Test to Detect Early Lung Disease Help Smokers Quit?

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Despite evidence that smoking damages the lungs, people continue to smoke. But a new blood test may be more definitive proof that it's time to quit, say researchers.

Lung disease covers a range of disorders from asthma and influenza to COPD, TB, and cancer. Some of the warning signs include chronic coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing up blood or chest pains.

But this blood test may detect the early onset of the lung disease emphysema.

According to a report in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, researchers identified a specific physical trait in the blood of smokers with early lung disease.

That same biomarker was present in the blood of smokers who were not sick, but it was not found in the blood of non-smokers.

The authors concluded that the presence of this biomarker could be an early indication of emphysema.

They suggest that a blood test showing smokers are developing lung disease may be a stronger incentive to kick the habit than the threat of being at risk of getting the disease.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


New Down Syndrome Test Could Cut Healthy Baby Deaths

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(HONG KONG) -- Pre-natal screening for Down syndrome, which affects one in every 800 pregnancies, is fraught with unclear test results, risks to the unborn baby and profound anxiety for expectant mothers and their partners.

But now, a new maternal blood test has the potential to reduce the number of women referred for invasive testing for Down syndrome by 98 percent.

A study, led by researchers at Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and published this week in the Journal of British Medicine looked at the new technology, which uses the latest tools in gene sequencing to detect abnormalities in the fetus.

The technology was developed in 2008, but this is the first large-scale study, including more than 750 blood samples from pregnant women in Hong Kong, Britain and the Netherlands -- 86 from those who were carrying a child with Down syndrome.

The most robust version of the new blood test tested on 314 pregnancies detected Down syndrome in 100 percent of the cases, with only a 2.1 percent false positive rate.

"Over the years, several versions of the test have been developed, but this test is one of the most promising in terms of diagnostic performance," said Dr. Rossa Chiu, first author of the study and a clinical chemist at CUHK.

"The availability of the safe DNA blood test could therefore greatly reduce the number of pregnant couples having to bear the emotional burden of going through a potentially risky and daunting procedure, like amniocentesis," Chiu added.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Simple Blood Test to Detect Cancer?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BOSTON) -- Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and health giant Johnson & Johnson are combining efforts to streamline a simple blood test that may be able to identify cancer cells in the blood stream of patients already diagnosed with a specific type of cancer.

But many experts question what place, if any, this test will have in the world of cancer prevention, early detection or even treatment.

The partnership is part of a nearly $30 million endeavor funded by Johnson & Johnson company Veridex and the advocacy group Stand Up to Cancer to develop and refine technology that will be able to accurately and quickly detect and analyze circulating tumor cells, the company said Monday.

Circulating tumor cells are a rare form of free-flowing cancer cells detached from the smallest of tumors and can be found at extremely low levels in the blood stream.

"For every one tumor cell in the blood there's over a billion normal blood cells in the circulation. So that's the big challenge for developing a test that can pull out one in a billion cells," said Dr. Daniel Haber, director of the cancer center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

CTC technology, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004, is widely used in cancer centers to monitor a patient's response to treatment. But researchers now hope to expand its use to create a faster automated version that will analyze genetic components of a tumor and ultimately guide oncologists to personalize cancer treatments for patients.

"Harnessing the information contained in these cells in an in vitro clinical setting could enable tools to help select treatment and monitor how patients are responding," said Robert McCormack, head of technology innovation and strategy at Veridex.

Some cancer experts agreed the technology may be able to track some patients' cancer progression.

"It can help oncologists determine how well the drugs are working to kill cancer cells and it potentially could tell if the tumor returns at a later time," said Dr. Sarah Blair, associate professor of surgery in the division of surgical oncology at University of California San Diego.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio