Western Health has played a key role in developing a blood test that could spare thousands of colon cancer patients from unnecessary chemotherapy.
A team of international researchers, including Western Health senior medical oncologist and WEHI Professor Peter Gibbs, created the novel test that identifies patients who need chemotherapy after their tumour is surgically removed – and those who can safely be spared secondary treatment.
The DYNAMIC study was co-led by WEHI and the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Centre in the US.
Western Health was the main clinical site, leading more than 20 Australian hospitals that together recruited over 450 patients for the trial.
"The collaborative efforts from these hospitals were critical for us to complete this trial – the first randomised trial in any solid tumour type worldwide that used a blood test to determine which patients can safely forgo chemotherapy after surgery," said Prof Gibbs, who along with WEHI colleague Associate Professor Jeanne Tie collaborated with the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Centre to develop the novel blood test.
"Randomised studies like this are needed to deliver meaningful patient outcomes, but they are not possible without the support of our collaborators and philanthropic efforts".
Stage II colon cancer is defined as a cancer that has grown through the wall of the colon, but does not extend to the lymph nodes or other organs. Almost 4000 Australians are diagnosed with it each year.
While most patients with stage II colon cancer are cured after surgery to remove the cancer from the bowel, the cancer will recur in about 20 per cent of patients.
As a result, chemotherapy is currently offered to all stage II colon cancer patients.
The findings from this landmark study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, could revolutionise chemotherapy treatment for colon cancer patients and fast-track the development of new drug targets.
The new blood test assesses levels of circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) – genetic material shed from tumours into the blood stream.