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Researchers at the biomedical research and treatment centre City of Hope have developed a novel, non-invasive liquid biopsy test for identifying lymph node metastasis in people with high-risk T1 colorectal carcinoma.

City of Hope noted that this blood test is an example of the theranostic (a term that combines ‘therapeutic’ and ‘diagnostic’) approach to offer each patient customised treatment.

People suspected of having T1 colorectal cancer with lymph node metastasis go through a radical procedure for removing affected parts of the colon.

On conducting final examinations of the removed colon, only 5%-10% of these individuals are actually found to have had lymph node metastasis. This data indicates that the surgical procedure is not essential for the majority of patients.

City of Hope department of molecular diagnostics and experimental therapeutics chair Ajay Goel said: “Since radical surgery dramatically reduces quality of life for patients, improving the success rate of identification of high-risk individuals with lymph node metastasis remains the challenge in T1 colorectal cancer diagnosis.

“In the future, we hope to improve our confidence in identifying which individuals truly have lymph node metastasis via this novel biomarker-based liquid biopsy test for T1 colorectal cancer, in combination with clinical and pathological criteria.”

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On refining and validating the panel of RNA biomarkers, the blood test showed to be precise in detecting lymph node metastasis with a sensitivity of 83.3% and specificity of 76.2%.

The researchers noted that the new liquid biopsy test could complement the existing risk assessment for lymph node metastasis for people with early-stage T1 colorectal cancer.

City of Hope noted that the technology is patent pending.

Goel added: “There are several steps between where we are now and where we want to go, detecting lymph node metastasis in colon cancer from a blood sample, but without doubt, this is an encouraging first step.”