Can­cer trial funds de­nied Blood test re­moves need for ex­pen­sive surgery

The Courier-Mail - - NEWS - SUE DUN­LEVY

A BLOOD test for can­cer that could re­move the need for biopsy surgery is be­ing tri­alled in hos­pi­tals in Brisbane, Sydney Ade­laide and Perth.

Re­searchers claim that within five years the dis­ease could be treated by wash­ing can­cer cells from the blood us­ing a method sim­i­lar to kid­ney dial­y­sis. But the re­searchers said ap­pli­ca­tions for five gov­ern­ment re­search grants to progress the treat­ment tech­nol­ogy had been re­jected.

Univer­sity of NSW re­searcher Ma­jid Warkiani has de­vel­oped a ma­chine that can de­tect can­cer cells in blood sam­ples, sep­a­rat­ing the few larger can­cer cells from bil­lions of healthy blood cells.

The test can de­tect traces of any type of solid can­cer, such as lung, breast and bowel.

It uses a sys­tem that “spins out” and iso­lates cir­cu­lat­ing tu­mour cells which are shed into the blood­stream from a solid tu­mour and can es­tab­lish tu­mours else­where in the body, the mech­a­nism by which can­cer spreads through the body.

“Can­cer cells are big­ger and more flex­i­ble than nor­mal blood cells and the ma­chine fil­ters the cells by size,” Dr Warkiani said.

“We want to bring the cost of the test down to $50 so it is highly af­ford­able and in­sur­ers would be will­ing to pay for it and you could do it two to three times a year.”

Even­tu­ally pa­tients would have a can­cer de­tec­tion test in much the same way they have check-ups for choles­terol lev­els and blood sugar counts.

It would en­able doc­tors to catch can­cer be­fore it spreads, giv­ing the pa­tient a much greater chance of sur­vival, Dr Warkiani said.

Doc­tors at Princess Alexan­dria Hos­pi­tal in Brisbane are us­ing the tech­nol­ogy to de­tect breast and prostate can­cer and it is hoped there will be enough clin­i­cal val­i­da­tion from th­ese tri­als to ob­tain US Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­proval for the test within three years.

Dr Warkiani needs fund­ing to test if the can­cer cells can be washed from the blood of pigs and mon­keys. If the fil­ter­ing sys­tem could be scaled up, a pa­tient’s en­tire blood sup­ply could po­ten­tially be fil­tered.

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