New Liquid Biopsy Test TARDIS Promotes Breast Cancer Diagnosis

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A newly published study introduces a liquid biopsy test for breast cancer diagnosis called TARDIS, abbreviated from TARgeted DIgital Sequencing. The new method is said to be 100 times more sensitive than other blood-based cancer monitoring tests, and can be used more frequently and conveniently.



As the name suggests, the new liquid biopsy blood test is as magical as the TARDIS from Doctor Who, only not as blue.





According to a study led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Mayo Clinic in Arizona, the new type of blood test for breast cancer can help avoid unnecessary surgeries by precisely measuring small fragments of cancer DNA in the patient’s blood.


What TARDIS is


TARDIS is a type of liquid biopsy that can specifically identify and quantify the fragments of cancer DNA circulating in the patient’s bloodstream, which is known as circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA).


Measuring ctDNA helps the doctors detect the presence of residual cancer and be informed whether the cancer has been successfully removed or not, said Muhammed Murtaza, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Co-Director of TGen’s Center for Noninvasive Diagnostics.


According to researchers, TARDIS can detect ctDNA in as low as 2 parts per 100,000 in patient’s blood. 



How TARDIS helps


The preciseness of TARDIS detection helps tell the status of breast cancer patients. For example, it can indicate if early stage breast cancer patients have responded well to pre-operative drug therapy.


TARDIS, as a type of liquid biopsy, is a breakthrough in technologies of traditional biopsies, which only produce results from one place at one time. Liquid biopsies use a little blood to precisely detect the patient’s status, and so can be performed repeatedly.


Since TARDIS is more sensitive than the current method and is easier to operate, it can also help plan the timing and extent of surgical resection and radiation therapy by through frequent application.


TARDIS is still waiting for further clinical testing and trials, but it’s sure that it can soon be used for monitoring patients during cancer treatment, and discovering when patients are essentially cured and cancer free.



"TARDIS is a game changer for response monitoring and residual disease detection in early breast cancer treated with curative intent. The sensitivity and specificity of patient-specific TARDIS panels will allow us to tell very early, probably after one cycle, whether neo-adjuvant (before surgery) therapy is working and will also enable detecting micro-metastatic disease and risk-adapted treatment after completing neo-adjuvant therapy," said Dr. Caldas, Senior Group Leader at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and one of the study's contributing authors.


About Liquid Biopsy


A liquid biopsy is a simple and non-invasive alternative to surgical biopsies which enables doctors to discover a range of information about a tumor through the cancer’s DNA in a simple blood sample.


The past of liquid biopsy


The idea of liquid biopsy came to scientists with the hope of detecting cancer before any symptoms using a small sample of your blood. Traditional biopsy requires a sample of tissue or cells taken from almost any part of the body, which is time-consuming, inconvenient and painful.



The first step of developing liquid biopsy was that researchers discovered how to find and study ctDNA, which focus on the cancer’s DNA in the bloodstream instead of in the tissues with cancers.


Research is undergoing to find out ways to identify where the cancer may be, because fragments of ctDNA from your bloodstream cannot locate the specific location of the tumor. Because of the same reason, liquid biopsy cannot replace tissue biopsy for now.


With research going deep, researchers also found that some cancers grow so slowly that they will never need to be treated. The point is to differentiate which ones can be left alone and which ones need to be treated. This is, however, an unsolved question left to researchers for further studies.

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Is this test available in cancer and how can you get into trials in either the U.S. or Canada?  Is the test covered by Medicare if prescribed by a doctor in the U.S.?  Also is it covered by health insurance in Canada, Ontario or Alberta specifically?
I am sorry I can't help much for now. Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is now focused on evaluating the best partners to work with to automate and scale TARDIS, according to a report in August. The process may take months before more detailed information is revealed.