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Prostate cancer patients could avoid chemotherapy with new blood test

9News.com.au logo 9News.com.au 2/12/2018 Gabriella Rogers

A new development in the testing of one of Australia's biggest cancer killers, prostate cancer, could help avoid unncessary chemotherapy and improve the treatment of patients.

Sydney researchers have developed a blood test which can track a patient's progress to avoid them being exposed to long stints of chemotherapy which can carry side-effects such as fatigue, nausea and diarrhoea.

Currently up to 50 percent of patients with advanced prostate cancer don't respond to the chemotherapy drug Docetaxel which is given after failed hormone therapy.

Usually patients are given Docetaxel for up to three months before doctors know whether they are responding to treatment.

Dr Kate Mahon said the new blood test could shorten that process by searching for a marker in the blood called mGSTP1.

Prostate cancer blood test © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Prostate cancer blood test

"It's an epigenetic blood marker, so it's a piece of DNA that comes from the prostate cancer cells," lead investigator Dr Kate Mahon, medical oncologist at Chris O'Brien Lifehouse, said.

The biomarker was studied using frozen blood samples from 600 patients which were stored in cryotanks at the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse cancer centre.

The Garvan Institute's Professor Susan Clark first identified the blood marker 20 years ago and holds the patent.

The latest findings, published in the medical journal European Urology, validate the test as a robust way to predict a patient's response to chemotherapy earlier.

It's hoped the test can be used to expedite alternative treatments.

The study was funded by the Cancer Institute of NSW and the federal government.

"Instead of going through six, seven, or eight sessions and then in the end finding 'well it didn't really work', that can be a big game changer for everyone," prostate cancer patient Grahame Enright said.

Prostate cancer blood test © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Prostate cancer blood test

Mr Enright, 69 spends four to five hours driving between his home in Taree and Sydney for treatment at the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse centre.

Since he was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 55, his treatments have included radical surgery, hormone therapy, long rounds of chemotherapy and a drug trial.

"Early this year I had a drug trial which lasted four months and now I'm back on another session of six chemotherapies," he said.

The next step in the investigation of the new blood test is to carry out a clinical trial in a hospital setting involving 400 patients.

That study will cost about $4 million which is yet to be funded.

Researchers are making a submission to the federal government so it can continue providing financial support.

A grant through the Movember campaign has also enabled Dr Kate Mahon to carry out the investigation.

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