24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877)SAFEGBC or (877)723-3422 Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

6502 Nursery Drive, Suite 100
Victoria, TX 77904
(361)575-0611
(800)421-8825
Fax: (361)578-5500

Medical Disorders
Resources
Basic InformationLookupsLatest News
Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Celiac Are Linked: ReviewCOVID-19 Rates May Be Lower Than Thought for Pregnant WomenAs Postponed Surgeries Resume, Can U.S. Hospitals Handle the Strain?Most Americans Still More Worried About COVID-19 Spread Than the EconomyWhat to Know If You're Headed to College With Asthma or AllergiesCoronavirus Was Already Spreading in U.S. in January: StudyAHA News: Inherited High Cholesterol May Be Common in People With Heart DiseaseDVT Clots Strike Many Critically Ill COVID-19 Patients: StudyYour Eyewear and COVID-19 SafetyPandemic Having More Impact on U.S. Hospitals Than Thought: StudyBig Need for Blood Donations as Postponed Surgeries ResumeAs Hard-Hit Areas of America Show Slowing in Coronavirus Cases, Other Regions See SpikesHydroxychloroquine May Worsen Odds for Cancer Patients With COVID-191 in 10 Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients With Diabetes Dies: StudyAHA News: How Bacteria in Your Gut Interact With the Mind and BodyMusic Might Help Soothe Ailing HeartsCould an Injected Electrode Control Your Pain Without Drugs?100,000 Dead, 40 Million Unemployed: America Hits Grim Pandemic MilestonesFDA Approves IV Artesunate for Severe Malaria'Silent' COVID-19 More Widespread Than ThoughtDrug Combos May Be Advance Against Heart FailurePollen Fragments Linger After Rains, Leaving Allergy Sufferers MiserableA New Hip or Knee Can Do a Marriage Good, Study FindsOnly Half of Americans Say They'd Get a Coronavirus Vaccine: SurveyAlzheimer's Gene Linked to Severe COVID-19 RiskCoronavirus Cases Ticking Upwards in Nearly a Dozen U.S. StatesLockdown Got You Down? Experts Offer Tips to De-StressCould a Hormone Help Spur High Blood Pressure?Nursing Homes Are Ground Zero for COVID-19Getting Back to Work Safely After LockdownRemdesivir Will Not Be Enough to Curb COVID-19, Study FindsOutdoor Swimming Pools Not a COVID-19 Risk: ExpertStrokes Are Deadlier When They Hit COVID-19 PatientsAHA News: How to Accurately Measure Blood Pressure at HomeU.S. Earmarks $1.2 Billion for New Vaccine Deal as Coronavirus Deaths Near 95,000During the Pandemic, How Safe Is the Great American Summer Vacation?COVID-19 Damages Lungs Differently From the Flu: StudyMore Evidence Hydroxychloroquine Won't Help, May Harm COVID-19 PatientsYour Sleep Habits May Worsen Your AsthmaExtra Pounds Could Bring More Painful JointsCOVID Can Complicate Pregnancy, Especially If Mom Is ObeseWHO Predicts COVID-19 Will Take Heavy Toll in AfricaCombining Remdesivir With Other Meds Could Boost COVID-Fighting PowerMultiple Sclerosis Ups Odds for Heart Trouble, StrokeAHA News: Not Wanting to Burden Busy Hospitals, She Disregarded Heart Attack SignsExperimental Vaccines Shield Monkeys From CoronavirusHeart Attack Cases at ERs Fall by Half – Are COVID Fears to Blame?Asthma Ups Ventilator Needs of Younger Adults With COVID-19: Study1 in 5 Hospitalized NYC COVID-19 Patients Needed ICU CareObesity Ups Odds for Dangerous Lung Clots in COVID-19 Patients
Questions and AnswersLinks
Related Topics

Diabetes

No Needle Prick: Laser-Based Test Hunts Stray Melanoma Cells in Blood

HealthDay News
by By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Jun 12th 2019

new article illustration

WEDNESDAY, June 12, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Monitoring a melanoma patient's progress is challenging. But a laser-based test might allow doctors to quickly screen the patient's blood to spot tumor cells roaming the body, a preliminary study suggests.

Those cells, known as circulating tumor cells, are "shed" from the original cancer site into the blood vessels or lymph system. They are considered a potential red flag. They could be a sign that a current treatment is not working, or that the cancer is more likely to spread to distant sites in the body.

Right now, though, doctors have no good way to detect circulating tumor cells. They are not abundant, so they can easily be missed by analyzing a patient's blood sample.

And it's simply not feasible to draw large amounts of blood from a patient, explained Vladimir Zharov, the senior researcher on the new study.

He is chair of cancer research at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, in Little Rock.

Zharov's team has been developing an alternative to blood draws. It's a laser-based system designed to screen patients' blood from the outside -- spotting tumor cells as they pass through veins in the arm.

In a nutshell, Zharov explained, it works like this: Laser pulses are applied to a vein through the skin. If melanoma cells -- which contain the light-absorbing pigment melanin -- cross the laser beam, they produce a sound wave. That, in turn, is captured by a small ultrasound probe placed on the skin.

Melanoma is the least common but deadliest form of skin cancer.

In this study, the researchers found that the system detected circulating tumor cells in 27 of 28 patients with later-stage melanoma -- in as little as 10 seconds. And it generated no false alarms when used to screen 19 healthy volunteers.

According to Zharov, the approach was 1,000 times more sensitive than previous tests researchers have developed for catching circulating tumor cells.

The findings are an early step. Melanoma experts said much more research is needed.

"This is a fascinating study," said Dr. Zeynep Eroglu, a skin cancer specialist at Moffitt Cancer Center, in Tampa, Fla.

There is a need for blood-based tests in monitoring patients with more advanced melanoma, she said. Doctors can use CT scans to see whether a treatment is working, but those scans can only be done every three months or so, Eroglu explained.

A blood test could be done more often.

"The inherent limitation is the amount of blood you need to draw," Eroglu said. "This system essentially gets around that."

However, it's not yet clear what doctors can do with the finding that a patient has some circulating tumor cells.

Eroglu said future studies could, for instance, follow melanoma patients after they receive treatment. "You could look at how well the detection of circulating tumor cells correlates with patients' outcomes," she said.

Other researchers have been working on blood tests that detect bits of DNA from tumor cells, Eroglu noted. There is evidence that among patients who've had surgery for earlier-stage melanoma, those with detectable tumor DNA afterward have a higher risk of relapse, she said.

One of the researchers working on those tests is Dr. David Polsky, a professor of dermatologic oncology at NYU Langone Health, in New York City. He agreed that the current study is "interesting."

"But a lot more validation work needs to be done before it could be used clinically," Polsky said.

According to Zharov, the approach holds promise for not only monitoring melanoma patients' responses to treatment, but also catching any recurrences after treatment, or helping to diagnose the cancer in the first place.

There are also hints that the laser might even kill off some of the circulating tumor cells.

For now, though, Zharov said his team is focused on using the technology for diagnosis and monitoring.

There's also the question of whether the test could weed out circulating tumor cells from other types of cancer. Zharov said that is possible -- though the approach would have to be modified because other types of tumor cells do not contain melanin.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 96,500 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma this year, and over 7,200 will die from the disease.

When melanoma is caught early, it is highly curable. Once it has spread to distant sites, like the lungs or brain, the five-year survival rate is about 23%, the cancer society says.

The study was published June 12 in Science Translational Medicine.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more on melanoma.