Researchers from the NYU School of Medicine and Perlmutter Cancer Center traced ctDNA for the cancer gene BRAF, which is a gene that plays a significant role in skin cancers.
For the study, blood samples of 345 male and female patients with stage III or IV melanoma metastasized to other organs, with BRAF mutations were monitored. The patients were participating in the clinical trial of the drugs dabrafenib and trametinib which specifically target cancers with BRAF mutations. The results of the blood sample analysis showed that BRAF mutations were present in 93% of the blood samples prior to treatment. Furthermore, circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) levels and BRAF were not detected one month after therapy in 40% patients with positive results in the clinical trial, whereas the remaining 60% displayed ctDNA levels and had a survival rate of 14 months. This was contradictory to the former group which showed an average survival rate of 28 months.
Disease progression in patients of skin cancer is usually detected through CT scans once in 3 months. However, the researchers suggest that since blood tests can be done more frequently, they will prove to be a much quicker and useful approach for doctors. “If further testing proves successful, monitoring blood samples for BRAF could give us an early indication of whether or not we need to adjust a patient’s treatment plan,” said senior investigator, David Polsky, Professor of Dermatologic Oncology at NYU Langone Health.
The research team has plans to test the success rate of analyzing patients’ blood samples over a longer period. Furthermore, they also plan to conduct clinical trials to find out of their methods can improve survival rate in patients with melanomas.