17 June 2024

A new ultra-sensitive liquid biopsy method can detect cancer in its early stages

Early diagnosis helps to detect cancer at the initial stages. Therefore, timely and thorough examinations are extremely important. California scientists have developed a new liquid biopsy method that captures the smallest particles of cancerous tumours.

A team of American and Danish scientists has proposed using artificial intelligence to detect circulating tumour DNA in the human bloodstream. They plan to train the AI based on DNA sequencing (nucleotide sequence reading) data from blood tests of people with malignant tumours. The researchers took samples from patients with lung cancer, melanoma, breast cancer, colorectal cancer and precancerous colorectal polyps.

Liquid biopsy is not a new diagnostic method in medicine. However, it has previously been able to detect relatively few cancerous mutations. And if they could be identified, it was at serious stages of the disease. One of the co-authors of the new study, Dr Dan A. Landau (Dan A. Landau), a few years ago developed an alternative approach based on full-genome sequencing of DNA in the blood. His method was more sensitive to tumour DNA.

Now Danish and American scientists, including Landau, have proposed automating the analysis of samples using machine learning. According to the researchers, AI will be able to better distinguish cancer "markers" from the "noise" of other molecules.

In a research paper in the journal Nature Medicine, the scientists described tests of their system, which they called MRD-EDGE. They taught it to recognise specific mutations in samples from 15 colorectal cancer patients. The system showed that nine patients had residual cancer after chemotherapy and surgery. Five of them were found to have a recurrence several months later using standard diagnostics.

The authors of the scientific paper noted that the system did not provide false negatives: none of the patients in whom MRD-EDGE did not detect tumour DNA had a recurrence during the study period.

The scientists are now conducting additional studies of the system and plan to implement their development in medical clinics in the near future.

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