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YOUR HEALTH | Liquid biopsy for metastatic cancer

There’s no way to track metastatic cancer cells, according to one doctor. Now they are looking to change that.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Metastatic cancer is cancer that has spread from the original tumor to other parts of the body. It accounts for up to 90 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S. each year. That fact has motivated one University of Central Florida researcher to develop an innovative way to track the cells in order to stop cancer in its track.

Whether it’s breast, lung, colon, or thyroid cancer, metastases is always something to worry about.

Professor and Head of the Cancer Division at the University of Central Florida, Annette Khaled explained, “There’s no way to track metastatic cancer cells. Right now, we really don’t have any technology to do that.”

Professor Khaled and her colleagues are working to fix this. With a new method called a liquid biopsy, they can take any body fluid – like blood, urine, or saliva – and analyze it for tumor cell shedding.

“We’re using a specific marker to find those cells. It’s never been used before,” Professor Khaled added.

Cancer cells that shed into blood can come from any part of the tumor. So, using a marker like the chaperonin complex that identifies dangerous cancer cells circulating in blood could not only alert doctors that a patient is relapsing or not responding to treatments, but could help other ways.

“This will help to pick up the cancers in their early stage of metastases, before they had a chance, really, to spread throughout the body. And the earlier you can identify a patient with metastases, the better chance for successful treatments,” Professor Khaled further explained.

Although this method is still experimental, the UCF research team used the FDA-approved cell-search system. The system can isolate, photograph and count cancer cells from a single tube of blood and was adapted for detection of the chaperonin complex in blood cells.

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