July 20, 2019

Kenya-third African country to use blood-based tests to detect cancer

Blood sample. [www.the-star.co.ke]

The fight against cancer in Kenya has gone a notch higher following the launch of new technology, liquid biopsy test which can detect cancer cells in the blood.

The blood-based test will be available in the market starting May 28 and will cost Sh70, 000 ($7,000).

Kenya will be the third African country to roll out the technology after South Africa and Tunisia.

Discover liquid biopsy, the name of the test, will also be used by oncologists to track any mutations of cancer genes as result of its resistance to medication.

“Our tests basically looks for circulating tumor DNA in the blood as opposed to its predecessor that requires doctors to get a tissue sample from the circulating tumor.” CEO of Massive genomics Bramuel Mwiti said in an interview.

The advent of the new technology will help in early detection of cancer as late diagnosis characterizes 80 percent of Kenyans suffering from the disease.

Mwiti added that once the sample is collected, the patient will be able to get the results in just ten days compared to the four weeks taken in the conventional tissue sample method to test for cancer.

He also noted that discover liquid biopsy will monitor the treatment of a patient and assess if or not he/she is responding well to therapy besides keeping track on any mutations that could arise.

“Our test can also be used to tell a patient if you have cancer or not. We cannot, however, cannot predict that you are going to get cancer at some point in your life. This is because cancer is not like any other disease. It takes eight years to develop in other parts of the body and cannot kill you instantly.” the CEO added.

The blood-based cancer test can detect eight common types of cancers according to a study by researchers from the John Hopkins University with collaboration from Australian scientists at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

The test senses tiny amounts of DNA and proteins released into the bloodstream from cancer cells.

According to the study published in the science journal, ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic, esophageal, bowel, lung and breast cancers are the eight common cancers.

Although there is a widespread belief that liquid biopsies could eventually have a significant impact on patient care, most researchers in the field agree that the science around the approach is still evolving and important questions remain unanswered.

“I think the major stumbling block for moving these liquid biopsy tests forward is there is not enough clinical verification and validation to know and feel comfortable that what we’re detecting with them is clinically meaningful,” said Lynn Sorbara, Ph.D., of NCI’s Division of Cancer Prevention.

According to cancer.org, Imaging techniques such as CT scans currently used to track treatment response for patients with certain cancer types are not sensitive enough to detect small changes in tumor size and they tend to be costly, explained Mark Roschewski, M.D., of NCI’s Center for Cancer Research.

As a potential alternative, Dr. Roschewski and his colleagues tested the ability of a liquid biopsy test to track treatment responses in patients with lymphoma. They showed that changes in ctDNA correlated with positive responses to chemotherapy. Furthermore, they were able to use ctDNA patterns to detect when some patients’ disease was coming back—months before it was possible to do so via CT scan.

Cancer is the third leading cause of death according to data from Kenya Economic Survey.

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