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New Blood Test May Improve Tracking of Advanced Melanoma

Test monitors blood levels of DNA fragments from dead cancer cells

blood specimen

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 13, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A new blood test might improve doctors' ability to track the spread of advanced melanoma, according to results of a small, preliminary study published in the January issue of Molecular Oncology.

The new test assesses levels of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) released into the blood when tumor cells die, the researchers said. Droplet digital polymerase chain reaction assays detecting BRAF and NRAS mutations were utilized in the study, which included 31 patients with unresectable stage IIIC/IV melanoma.

The researchers found that blood levels of ctDNA were elevated in 80 percent of patients about to undergo treatment for the advanced melanoma. Blood levels of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) were elevated in just 30 percent of such patients. The ctDNA blood test detected cancer recurrence -- confirmed by imaging -- in 85 percent of patients tested and undergoing treatment. The LDH blood test detected 54 percent of such cases.

"Our study results show that circulating tumor DNA is a superior blood test for evaluating and tracking progression of metastatic melanoma," senior investigator David Polsky, M.D., Ph.D., from the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said in a center news release.

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