Blood Tests to Monitor Disease
As part of Dr Usher’s PhD project, the team at UCL propose to develop a blood test to monitor progression of disease and predict clinical outcome for patients with chordoma. The aim would be to use this test to determine if a chordoma were fully removed at surgery and inform the doctors at an early stage if a tumour recurs.
The test could also potentially be used in drug trials for determining if patients with chordoma are responding to treatments. At present this can only be done by medical imaging such as CT and MRI, and these are not sensitive modalities for detecting small changes in response to therapies. Such tests have been developed for more common cancers and the team are developing a similar test for osteosarcoma, another bone cancer that occurs in children. They will use the experience that others have accrued to develop this test for chordoma.
They have already identified markers that can distinguish DNA from a chordoma and DNA from normal tissue. These markers can then be used to detect chordoma-derived DNA in blood samples. They have currently collected more than 120 samples from 40 patients (pre- and post-surgery).
The development of a blood test to help determine the progression of disease is something that The Drew Barker-Wright Charity feels passionate about. Currently young children have to undergo numerous MRI and CT scans to successfully track the progression of chordoma. Young children struggle to stay still for such scans, and so they have to be placed under general anaesthetic. During treatment, these scans can occur on a regular basis and continual use general anaesthetic can be a very stressful process for both child and parent. A move towards a blood test that could minimise MRI and CT scans will be invaluable to young chordoma patients in treatment worldwide.