The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in the UK has conducted a pilot blood test, known as a liquid biopsy, for melanoma, aiming to optimise treatment strategies.

The CAcTUS clinical trial, which received funding from the Christie Charity, has yielded preliminary results indicating the potential for real-time treatment decisions based on the test’s accuracy in detecting cancer responses.

This blood test could become a regular tool for clinicians managing advanced melanoma treatments.

Researchers at the CRUK Cancer Biomarker Centre have demonstrated the ability to perform this liquid biopsy swiftly enough to influence immediate treatment choices.

CRUK Cancer Biomarker Centre at the University of Manchester director Caroline Dive CBE said: “We are so delighted that results from the blood testing we performed in our laboratories can be used in real time to advise our clinical colleagues on treatment decisions for patients with melanoma.”

The trial’s success story includes patient José Sotorrio, who, after participating, showed no signs of cancer.

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Sotorrio said: “Once on the trial, I had a difficult month of high temperatures, vomiting, stopping and restarting treatment due to side effects, so I wasn’t too hopeful that I’d had a consistent enough course of treatment to see results.

“However, blood tests showed tumour levels in my blood had dropped by over 80% in just 28 days in response to targeted therapy. So doctors decided this was the optimum time to switch from the targeted therapy to immunotherapy.”

The CAcTUS trial’s approach involved sequential use of targeted therapy and immunotherapy.

The goal was to reduce cancer growth until circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) levels in the blood fell by 80%.

Despite a setback with liver function during treatment, José achieved a complete response after one year and remains cancer-free, Christie NHS said in a press statement.

The Christie consultant oncologist Paul Lorigan said: “We have been using this blood test in real time to identify the best treatment strategy for patients and when to switch to another therapy.

“The results of the pilot tell us that this could be a huge help in making the right treatment decisions for each individual patient at the right time for them. 

“I hope in the future analysing the tiny pieces of DNA coming from the cancer found in the patient’s blood stream could be commonly used to tell us when a patient is responding to treatment, and when’s the optimum time to change to a new therapy.”