‘Liq­uid biop­sies’ de­tected can­cer

Hope is process can be used to test for other tu­mor types.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Mar­i­lynn Mar­chionne

A man rammed his car into a group of sol­diers near Paris, in­jur­ing six of them, and then was cor­nered by po­lice in a high­way man­hunt the lat­est in what’s be­come a dis­turbingly fa­mil­iar pat­tern of at­tacks tar­get­ing French se­cu­rity forces.

It’s un­clear what mo­ti­vated the driver, who was hos­pi­tal­ized with bul­let wounds af­ter the cal­cu­lated morn­ing am­bush and an hours-long po­lice chase. Au­thor­i­ties said he de­lib­er­ately ac­cel­er­ated his BMW into a clus­ter of sol­diers in what pros­e­cu­tors are in­ves­ti­gat­ing as a po­ten­tial ter­ror­ist at­tack.

Pre­side n t Em­manuel Macron used Twit­ter to ex­press his “con­grat­u­la­tions to the forces of or­der that ap­pre­hended the per- pe­tra­tor of the at­tack,” and also to urge con­tin­ued vig- ilance across the coun­try.

Macron’s gov­ern­ment painted the in­ci­dent in the sub­urb of Le­val­lois-Per­ret as proof of the need to ap­prove a new se­cu­rity law that crit- ics con­tend in­fringes on lib­er­ties and would put France in a per­ma­nent state of emer- gency.

Wed­nes­day’s at­tack caused no deaths and hurt no civil- ians, but still set nerves on edge: It was the sev­enth at­tempted at­tack on se­cu­rity forces guard­ing France this year alone. While oth- ers have tar­geted prom­i­nent sites like the Eif­fel Tower, Wed­nes­day’s at­tack hit the leafy, rel­a­tively af­flu­ent sub­urb of Le­val­lois-Per­ret that is home to France’s main in­tel- ligence ser­vice, the DGSI, and its coun­tert­er­ror­ism ser­vice.

know it was a delib- er­ate act,” In­te­rior Min­is­ter Ger­ard Col­lomb said.

Be­fore the at­tack, the sus­pect was seen wait­ing in a black BMW in a cul-de- sac near the Le­val­lois city hall and a build­ing used as a stag­ing point for sol­diers in France’s oper­a­tion to pro­tect prom­i­nent sites, ac­cord­ing to two po­lice of­fi­cials.

When a group of sol­diers emerged from the build­ing to board a van, the car be­gan to ap­proach, then sped up and rammed into them, hurl- ing the sol­diers against the van, one of the of­fi­cials said.

Au­thor­i­ties checked video sur­veil­lance of the area and po­lice fanned out and stopped nu­mer­ous cars as they the at­tacker.

Then, on the A16 high­way near the English Chan­nel port of Calais, po­lice stopped what Prime Min­is­ter Edouard Philippe called the “prin­ci­pal sus­pect.” Im­ages of the ar­rest scene showed emer- gency ve­hi­cles sur­round­ing a black BMW with a dam­aged wind­shield on a cor­doned-off high­way.

Po­lice of­fi­cers opened fire dur­ing the ar­rest to sub­due the man, who was in­jured along with an of­fi­cer hit by a stray po­lice bul­let, a ju­di­cial of­fi­cial said.

The sus­pect was hos­pi­tal- ized, the of­fi­cial said, but his con­di­tion wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear. Au­thor­i­ties have not iden­ti­fied him.

Heav­ily armed, masked po­lice searched a build­ing be­lieved linked to the at­tacker in the Paris sub­urb of Be­zons on Wed­nes­day night. searched for

Sci­en­tists have the first ma­jor ev­i­dence that blood tests called liq­uid biop­sies hold prom­ise for screen­ing peo­ple for can­cer. Hong Kong doc­tors tried it for a type of head and neck can­cer, and boosted early de­tec­tion and one mea­sure of sur­vival.

The tests de­tect DNA that tu­mors shed into the blood. Some are used now to mon­i­tor can­cer pa­tients, and many com­pa­nies are try­ing to de­velop ver­sions of these for screen­ing, as pos­si­ble al­ter­na­tives to mam­mo­grams, colono­scopies and other such tests.

The new study shows this ap­proach can work, at least for this one form of can­cer and in a coun­try where it’s com­mon.

“This work is very ex­cit­ing on the larger scale” be­cause it gives a blue­print for how to make tests for other tu­mor types such as lung or breast, said Dr. Den­nis Lo of Chi­nese Uni­ver­sity of Hong Kong. “We are brick by brick putting that tech­nol­ogy in­to­place.”

He led the study, pub­lished Wed­nes­day by the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine. Lo is best known for dis­cov­er­ing that fe­tal DNA can be found in a mother’s blood, which launched a new era of non-in­va­sive test­ing for preg­nant women.

The study in­volved naso- pha­ryn­geal can­cer, which forms at the top of the throat be­hind the nose. It’s a good test case for DNA screen­ing be­cause it’s an ag­gres­sive can­cer where early de­tec­tion mat­ters a lot, and screen- ing could be tried in a pop- ula­tion where the can­cer is most com­mon: mid­dle-aged Chi­nese men.

Also, the Ep­stein-Barr virus is in­volved in most cases, so tests could hunt for vi­ral DNA that tu­mors shed into the blood in large quan­ti­ties, rather than rare bits of can­cer cells them­selves.

About 20,000 men were screened, and vi­ral DNA was found in 1,112, or 5.5 per­cent. Of those, 309 also had the DNA on con­fir­ma­tory tests a month later. Af­ter en­do­scope and MRI ex­ams, 34 turned out to have can­cer.

More cases were found at the ear­li­est stage — 71 per­cent ver­sus only 20 per­cent of a com­par­i­son group of men who had been treated for na­sopha­ryn­geal can­cer over the pre­vi­ous five years. That’s im­por­tant be­cause early cases of­ten are cured with ra­di­a­tion alone, but more ad­vanced ones need chemo­ther­apy and treat­ment is less suc­cess­ful.

Screen­ing also seemed to im­prove how many sur­vived with­out wors­en­ing dis­ease — 97 per­cent at three years ver­sus 70 per­cent of the com­par­i­son group.

Only one per­son who tested neg­a­tive on screen­ing de­vel­oped na­sopha­ryn­geal can­cer within a year.

There­searchers es­ti­mate 593 peo­ple would need to be screened at a to­tal cost of $28,600 to iden­tify one can­cer case. It may be worth it in Hong Kong, but maybe not in places like the U.S. where the dis­ease is rare, and more peo­ple would have to be screened at a greater cost to find each case, said Dr. Richard Am­binder of Johns Hop­kins School of Medicine, who wrote a com­men­tary in the jour­nal.

Still, “this is show­ing that liq­uid biop­sies have great prom­ise,” he said. “This is an ad­vance that will in­deed save lives.”

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