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'Fluid biopsy' technique could transform cancer treatment

The treatment of cancer could be revolutionised by a new technique developed in the US that helps identify tumour cells, it has been claimed.

Scientists from Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, have developed a technique that spotlights tumour cells carried in the bloodstream.

They believe it will pave the way to “real time” assessment and treatment of different forms of the disease.

The new “fluid biopsy” technique works by using dyes to attach fluorescent “tags” to cancer cell proteins. The dyes contain antibodies that bind to specific proteins found in circulating tumour cells (CTCs) in blood samples.

Study author Professor Peter Kuhn said that once attached to the cancer cells they glow in different colours under special light conditions, making identification simpler.

The technique has been successfully tested in patients with breast, prostate and pancreatic cancer, and it is also hoped it will help scientists work out the mysteries of metastasis.

Hailing the findings, published in the Institute of Physics journal Physical Biology, Prof Kuhn said: “If we can assess the disease in real time, we can make quantitative treatment decisions in real time. These decisions include predictive decisions about therapeutic response, diagnostic decisions and prognostic decisions about outcome.”

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