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Circulating Tumor Cells Reveal Insights Into Lung Cancers
Date:7/2/2008

Technology could one day help tailor treatments to individual patients, study says

WEDNESDAY, July 2 (HealthDay News) -- A new technique for finding and analyzing stray cancer cells in the blood of lung cancer patients may make it possible for doctors to one day not only determine the genetic "signature" of particular tumors but to monitor changes in those cells and adjust treatments accordingly.

"I think this is key to personalized medicine," said Dr. Daniel Haber, senior author of a paper detailing the technology, to be published in the July 24 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine but released early online Wednesday. "As we get to targeted therapies in increasing numbers, and increasing understanding about the genetics that guide targeted therapies, we need a way to know what we're treating."

The "CTC chip" technology described in the new paper may also one day aid in the detection of cancers that are likely to spread. "This is an early warning sign we could use for earlier detection," said Haber, who is director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston.

A previous study published in Nature used the CTC (Circulating Tumor Cells) chip technology to look at CTCs in lung, pancreatic, prostate, breast and colon cancers. The CTC chip successfully found such cells in 99 percent of the samples.

"We're very interested in the biology of these cells because no one has really been able to study metastasis [spread of cancer to other parts of the body] in action," Haber said. "These are the cells that cause metastases and the lethality of cancer. Now that we can identify and purify them in decent numbers, we can study and hopefully identify some of their vulnerabilities. It opens up a whole field of human metastasis and human therapies."

The CTC chip is a silicon chip about the size of a business card that has 80,000 "columns" coded with an antibody that acts li
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