A paper published last week in Cancer Cell describes a new method for cancer detection from a simple blood sample. So far, one limitation of this type of non-invasive “liquid biopsy” for early detection of cancer has been the inability to identify the nature of the primary tumor. This new method, based on sequencing mRNA from platelets, overcomes this limitation in spectacular fashion—providing accurate identification of the primary tumor location in 71% of the samples tested.
Human blood platelets contain small amounts of mRNA. The RNA profile of “tumor-educated” platelets changes in response to tumor growth as the platelets take up mRNA from tumor cells. In this study, the authors sequenced the platelet mRNA of various cancer patients and healthy donors, and then searched for cancer-associated expression profiles. Continue reading “Big Data. Bigger Hope.”