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Simple blood test to determine chemotherapy dosage

Melbourne: Australian scientists claim to have developed a simple and low-cost blood test that can determine how well cancer patients are responding to chemotherapy, which could help in adjusting its dosage on a case-to-case basis.

According to Queensland Institute of Medical Research, the low-cost test discovered by a team at the institute can determine how well chemotherapy is working in patients suffering from Hodgkin`s lymphoma.

The discovery by Maher Gandhi and Kimberley Jones from QIMR`s Clinical Immunohaematology Laboratory could mean personalised treatment for patients with blood cancer, reducing the amount of chemotherapy as needed on a case-to-case basis.

"This has the potential to be a huge aid for doctors in their decision making and a faster and less invasive process for the patients," Gandhi said adding that "up until now, clinicians have relied on scans to help them judge how well people are responding to chemotherapy.

The imaging is expensive, it can be difficult to interpret, and can be limited to just one scan before treatment starts, and another when treatment is finished.

"This discovery means we can work towards using simple blood tests to provide quicker, cheaper and more regular monitoring of how a person is responding to treatment," he said.

About 400 Australians are diagnosed with Hodgkin`s lymphoma each year and it is most common in adolescents and young adults, and more likely to occur in men than women.

The QIMR team found that levels of a certain protein, CD163, are elevated in Hodgkin lymphoma patients, serum and drop as the tumour shrinks during chemotherapy.

"Chemotherapy drugs are toxic, and the more you use, the higher the chances of side-effects down the track," Jones said.

"Testing for these protein levels, using a simple blood test, could show doctors whether the treatment is working, whether they can reduce the doses or conversely, whether they need to increase the doses to beat the cancer," she added.

"In short, it means a way forward to personalised treatment for Hodgkin`s lymphoma patients, and hopefully smaller doses of chemotherapy drugs," Jones said.

The scientists have spent the past six years following 47 Hodgkin`s Lymphoma patients from diagnosis to recovery.

The next step is a larger international study of patients in collaboration with the Australasian Leukaemia Lymphoma Group and doctors in the UK.


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