Cancer trial funds denied Blood test removes need for expensive surgery
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.