liquid-biopsy

Liquid Biopsy and its role in fighting cancer


Wrong diagnosis and wrong medications can lead to fatal results in person’s health. According to September 2014 bulletin of Sample Registration System (SRS), India has an infant mortality rate of 40 per 1,000 live births.Wrong drugs cause 50 deaths out of 1000 patients in India. Most of the times, a regular disease can exaggerate and become fatal because of the wrong diagnosis and medications. Same was the case with Mr. Deshpande (name changed) – which almost took a toll on his life.

When Mr. Deshpande, a 74 year old retired banker started suffering from abdominal pain, weakness, and fatigue, his wife was alarmed because he had always been very careful about his diet and exercise regime. Neither did he miss his regular check-ups. He wanted to lead his retirement exactly the way he had planned. However, all his plans were short lived because of his constant health issues after the retirement.

On the contrary, he also lost his weight drastically. When his wife took him to their GP, he referred them to an expert in the city where he was first diagnosed with adenocarcinoma of colon in November 2013.

After the diagnosis, the doctors suggested surgical resection which would be followed by chemotherapy. Doctors also advised a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan. This scanning is basically to check how the tissues and organs in the body are working. A year later,in November 2014, while testing, a mass measuring 2.1 x 1.7 cm was detected in the lung with speculated margins. The doctors assumed it as a metastasis from colon cancer and started with Capecitabine – a chemotherapeutic agent.

After the prescriptions, he was being continuously monitored with PET scans. However, despite of the chemotherapy which was ongoing since a year, the mass was continuously increasing in size.

Doctors were not sure if it was indeed a metastasis of colon cancer, or it was a result of tuberculosis or in a worse case, primary lung carcinoma?

After looking after a varied possibilities and options, he was referred for a liquid biopsy. However, Mr. Deshpande was reluctant because of general perception of the biopsies. He was only relieved when the doctors explained that the procedure is as easy as a simple blood test.

Liquid Biopsy showed mutation burden 4.4 % of total cell free DNA. It was an indication of active primary lung carcinoma. The Liquid Biopsy indicated therapeutic response to targeted anti EGFR therapies such as Afatinib, Gefitinib and Erlotinib.

Here, Gefitinib was prescribed to the patient. This drug is only effective in cancers with mutated and overactive EGFR. It started showing its results and the tumor began to shrink gradually. Repeat PET scan showed reduction in tumor size by 70%. That meant a great success of the accurate diagnosis and correct medications.

Liquid Biopsy after three weeks
Liquid Biopsy after three weeks

Five weeks later, detectable mutation burden in the cell free DNA obtained from plasma was negative. The mutation burden was reduced even more as compared to the previous analysis possibly due to Gefitinib therapy.

Mr. Deshpande is completely hale and hearty now. It’s interesting how one correct step towards the course of treatment can leave a huge impact on patient’s well-being.

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Watch out for these 9 symptoms of Bone Marrow Cancer


Many people are diagnosed with bone cancer every year and almost half of them die because of it because of the late detection. Bone cancer originates from the cells that make up the interior part of the bones. Bone cancer is classified into two types- primary and secondary.

Primary bone cancer starts from cells in the hard bone tissue. It is a rare type of cancer and accounts for only two in every 1,000 cases of cancers diagnosed. This type of cancer is more common in men than in women.

Secondary bone cancer is a metastatic cancer, meaning – a cancer which started in another part of the body and spreads to the bone. This is more common form of cancer. Cancers of breast, prostate, lung, kidney, and thyroid can spread to the bones and initiate a cancer there. Treatment of this cancer is different from primary cancer.

Here are some symptoms which can possibly indicate bone marrow cancer –

Bone marrow cancer
Image credits – onlymyhealth.com
  1. Bone pain

Intense pain is in bones or joints is one of the major symptoms of bone cancer. This pain can be a result of cancer tumour- from tumour pressing against nearby nerve or organ or as a result of radiation. This pain usually intensifies during night. However, bone pain is also symptom of arthritis or injury.

  1. Easy bone fractures

The cancer affects the bone cells badly and makes them brittle. So if a bone gets fractured with a minor accident or pressure. E.g. Putting pressure or banging against the door slightly can result in fracture. This is a symptom of bone cancer.

  1. Weight loss

Weight loss that cannot be attributed to diet, exercise or any particular treatment can be a symptom of cancer. Here, the body loses its capacity to eliminate wastes and can also result in constipation.

  1. Inflammation

This symptom is common in primary bone cancer where the cancer develops inside the bone. It causes inflammation and swelling in the area where the tumour is present. It also makes skin very tender and sensitive.

Fatigue is a symptom of bone cancer
Image credits – testsieger-berichte.de
  1. Fatigue

Though this is a generalized symptom and can be associated with many other disorders; it is also a result of cancer. If the tiredness and fatigue doesn’t go with enough rest and proper diet, it can be a symptom of cancer.

  1. Anemia

Anemia occurs because the body produces more white blood cells to fight the disease and thus, production of healthy red blood cells decreases. It is one of the symptom of bone cancer.

  1. Appetite loss

As the cancer grows inside the body, the patient loses his energy and willingness to do physical work as well as physical and mental energy. The patient loses his desire to eat as the food no longer seems appetizing. The cancerous cells also absorb nutrients from the food and healthy cells get very little.

  1. Problem in sleeping

As the main symptom is pain in the bones, the person affected with bone cancer finds it extremely difficult sleeping or resting. Also, pain increases more during night and thus makes it hard for a person to have a sound sleep.

  1. Decreased immunity

To fight any disease, body produces extra white blood cells and it results in frequent infections and common diseases like cold, cough, flu, etc.

Our genes have 30% influences on our bone health. Along with our genes, bone health depends on many other factors such as age, diet, and proper exercise. Poor sunlight exposure, overuse of sun blocks, low calcium intake are some causes for lack of Vitamin D. Screening using genetic tests can help you to calculate your risk factors and take necessary measures.

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Bad lifestyle choices can lead to cancer

9 New-age lifestyle habits that can increase your risk of cancer


Sure we have all have a certain pace to follow in today’s world without which we can be left behind. We all have to run in the race and make sure we are the winners. However, while following our passion and working hard to make our dreams come true, we often neglect our health. We do not care about our food, exercise, or healthy habits. This leads to various health disorders and one of the scariest threat is that of cancer. Though we do not do it intentionally, these habits affect our health.

Here are some habits that you should avoid –
1. Processed foods

Diet plays a very important role in our overall well-being – physical as well as mental. Nowadays processed food is in and we find it easier to stock our refrigerators with ready-to-cook meals and microwave it just before leaving for work. Charcoaled grilled food is also a trend these days. But the compounds in charred foods are supposed to help the occurrence of breast cancer in women.

Overly processed food
Image credits- teensonline.co.za

2. Sodas and energy drinks

All of us think that no sugar = no health problems; and happily sip on diet coke. However, it’s not just about the sugar. The artificial colours in many sodas are connected to cancer. It is also the case with artificial sweeteners. This is called caramel colouring and it is found in many drinks and processed snacks items. These drinks have high glycemic index and increase the risk of endometrial cancer.

3. Overeating

With so many outlets nearby and food-ordering being so convenient at a tap of our fingers, overeating is bound to happen. It also means no proper intervals between the meals. Overeating leads to obesity and obesity is linked to many types of cancers like colon, breast (postmenopausal), endometrium kidney and esophagus.

4. Cellphones

Radiations from cell phone are dangerous and can lead to cancer. So it’s advised that SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) of the phone should be checked while buying a new phone. It measures the radiofrequency energy absorbed by the body from the cell phone. You need to be more careful when you are in an area with weak signals, because phones work harder to search a signal and thus, emit more radiation.

Mobile radiation and cancer
Image credits- completehealthnews.com

5. Sitting too much

All of us spend a major portion of our day sitting at our computer screens. It not just leads to jammed muscles and body pain, but also increases the risk of cancer. With the urban lifestyle, there’s very less or almost zero physical activity. Thus, it’s advised to do some physical activity at least once a day. It lowers the risk of colorectal, postmenopausal breast, and endometrial cancers.

 6. Working in night shifts

A study has found out that women who have worked at night shifts for more than 30 years have doubled risk of getting a breast cancer as compared to those who haven’t. It is because of the melatonin suppression at night. However, there are other factors too; disturbed sleep, lack of vitamin D, upset body clock, to name a few.

7. Alcohol

This is a no-brainer. Everyone knows the side-effects and after-effects of alcohol. Though occasionally indulging in some drinks is not a problem; making it a habit and having it every day definitely leads to cancer. When alcohol metabolism happens, it produces a carcinogen in the body and increases the risk for breast, mouth, pharynx, liver, and colorectal cancer.

8. Over-exposure to sunlight

Harmful UV rays from sunlight can increase the risk of melanoma skin cancer. The rates of skin cancer have gone up in a last few decades and it can be attributed to the choice of clothing as well as casual amount of sunbathing as a recreational activity.

Sun rays and skin cancer risk
Image credits – newgenskin.ie

9. Oral sex

It was quite a shock for everyone when Hollywood actor & producer said that he had got throat cancer because of excessive amount of oral sex. However, it is scientifically proven that oropharyngeal cancer is caused by HPV infection acquired from oral to genital contact. Thus, it’s always advised to be careful while engaging in such sexual behavior.

Above are some of the habits on which you should keep a check on to lead a healthy life. Because it’s rightly said- prevention is always better than cure. And if there’s any doubt you should always get tested for your risk factors so you can take preventive measures.

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Causes of ovarian cancer you should definitely know about


“I think cancer helps to transform a person… It affected me so much that it enabled me to grow, appreciate life and honor my body.” Says Manisha Koirala, while talking about her ovarian cancer that was diagnosed in 2012. There is very less awareness about ovarian compared to the breast cancer in India. Ovarian cancer affects the ovaries of women and most of the times; the increase in abdominal area is looked over. The symptoms are very hard to see and non-specific. Thus, the diagnosis happens at a stage when the cancer is hard to treat.

There are some early signs of ovarian cancer; like these mentioned below –

  • Pain and pressure in abdomen and it’s bloating.
  • Having trouble while eating and feeling full shortly after eating.
  • Increased urge of urinating and increased frequency.

Above symptoms do not necessary mean that the cancer is present, however, it is recommended to get the checkup done if those persist for more than a month.

Now let us see some common causes attributed to ovarian cancer.

Image credits - topinfopost.com/
Image credits – topinfopost.com/
  1. Inherited faulty genes

Most of the ovarian cancers are due to the genetic changes that occur in woman’s body during her lifetime and not necessarily inherited. Around 1 in 10 ovarian cancers are result of inherited gene mutation. These genes include BRCA1 & BRCA2 which are also responsible for increased risk of breast cancer.

The risk of developing ovarian cancer is more if you have close relatives (mother, sister, or daughter) who had ovarian or breast cancer. However, if they were less than 50 years of age at the time of cancer diagnosis, it is possible that their cancer was because of inherited faulty genes.

There are many genetic tests available which help to know your genetic make-up and family history. It also detects your risk for ovarian cancer.

  1. Previous breast cancer

Sometimes, same set of faulty genes is responsible for breast as well as ovarian cancer. i.e. women who earlier had breast cancer have more risk of developing ovarian cancer compared to general women population. If the diagnosis of breast cancer was before 40 years of age, the risk is four-fold.

If you had breast cancer before 40 and have a family history of ovarian cancer, you have 17 times the average risk of ovarian cancer.

If you think you may have a faulty gene, you can speak to your GP. There is more information about screening for ovarian cancer in this section.

  1. Fertility treatment

Some studies have linked fertility drugs to an increased risk of ovarian cancer, but recent studies do not support this. But there is a risk of ovarian tumours in infertile women who have been treated with IVF; however, infertility increases the risk of ovarian cancer more rather than its treatment.

  1. Hormone replacement therapy

Combined HRT is considered as one of the causes for ovarian cancer. A study observed that women using HRT for a few years were having more risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who had never used it. The risk is very low compared to the other causes.

  1. Using IUD

IUD means intra uterine device. It is one of the birth control measures used by females. A study has shown that women who use a coil (IUD) have an increased risk of ovarian cancer, but the risk is still small.

  1. Physical conditions

Checking BMI (Body Mass Index) in regular intervals is important. BMI shows if you are obese or underweight compared to your height. A study in 2008 stated the risk of being overweight for premenopausal & postmenopausal women. It was observed that premenopausal women with more than 30 BMI had a risk of ovarian cancer, but postmenopausal women had none. It is also found in a research that taller women have more risk of ovarian cancer than shorter women.

  1. Endometriosis

Research has shown that women with endometriosis have an increase in their ovarian cancer risk compared to women who do not. Endometriosis is a disease in which a tissue that generally grows inside the uterus grows outside it.

Smoking is one of the reasons of ovarian cancer. Image credits - archives.deccanchronicle.com
Smoking is one of the reasons of ovarian cancer.
archives.deccanchronicle.com
  1. Smoking

It is a proven fact that smoking causes many hazards- including lung cancer. However, it also has a role in ovarian cancer. A research showed an increased risk of mucinous ovarian tumours in smokers. However, the risk was back to normal after the smoking was stopped.

  1. Diet factors

Though the effect of diet on ovarian cancer is not yet highly established, studies show that diet high in animal fats may lead to ovarian cancer.

Prevention tips

It is said that prevention is always better than cure. Thus, here are a few tips important for the prevention of ovarian cancer.

– High level of blood calcium level means increased risk of ovarian cancer- make sure to get it monitored regularly.

– Contraceptive pills reduce the risk of ovarian cancer in women and also protect them from the disease even 30 years after they discontinue the medication.

– Women with family history of any cancer should never ignore any of the above mentioned symptoms.

– Hysterectomy reduces the risk of ovarian cancer by about one-third.

No matter what, screening is absolutely important. It not just screens for the cancer but many other genetic disorders and also helps you to take the necessary measures.

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Hereditary Prostate Cancer and Genetics


Did you know that in Indian metro cities, prostate cancer is the second leading type of cancer among males and sixth leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide?

It is the second most common cause of cancer and the sixth leading cause of deaths resulting from cancer among men worldwide. The worldwide number of prostate cancer is expected to reach 1.7 million new cases and 5 lakh deaths in next 15 years. The major reason of this phenomenon is the increasing global population.

Between 1971 and 1975, only 21 per cent of patients lived for at least 10 years after diagnosis. In 2010-2011, the figure reached to 84 per cent. Thanks to the advanced treatments, early diagnosis, and availability of path breaking medications.

About Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer has become a major health problem in the industrialized world during the last few decades of the 20th century contributing to around 75% of the registered cases across the globe. Incidence rates of prostate cancer vary by more than 25 fold worldwide, the highest rates being in Australia/New Zealand, Western and Northern Europe, and North America. Rates of prostate cancer are low in Asian and North African countries, however, the number is increasing in developing countries like India. Out of total diagnosed cases, 75 percent of cases are of men over 75 years of age.

Genes and prostate cancer

One of the causes of prostate cancer is genetic make-up of an individual. Around 10 percent of all prostate cancers are present in families. A recent study throws more light on this topic and explores the various factors involved in prostate cancer. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health identified a gene common in families with a history of prostate cancer. In this study, approximately 100 families with a strong family history of the disease were screened and found that mutations in the HPC-1 gene may lead to develop prostate cancer.

Hereditary Cancer Screening

Genetic screening identifies the gene mutations and the risk of the genetic disorders and many other diseases in an individual, if any. Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) platforms enable us to examine the genetic mutations in members of families with high incidence of cancer. Thus it becomes easy to take measures accordingly that will prevent the cancer as well as improve the life quality of the person, if cancer is present.

Men with BRCA 2 mutation have increased risk of prostate and breast cancer.

Risk reduction options

There are many causes of Prostate cancer out if which genetics is one. Obesity and diet high in animal fats is also attributed to this cancer. However, this type of cancer is often completely curable if diagnosed on time and treated accordingly. There are many treatment options available nowadays for e.g.-  radiation therapy, surgery, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. It also requires nutrition and lifestyle changes.

Better screening provides early and better diagnosis of the cancer, helping patient for a better life using correct treatments. Screening helps to identify the future risks hence, it’s advised that men should undergo regular check ups for prostate cancer.

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