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Can ctDNA help us identify who needs post-operative chemotherapy?

Many breast cancers are currently treated with surgery followed by chemotherapy. One of the biggest research challenges is to identify those patients who will, or will not, benefit from post-operative chemotherapy. Using patient samples collected from a Spanish trial in 2003, Dr Shamsher and Dr Swift aim to identify ctDNA in samples taken after surgery but before chemotherapy to identify any differences. They will be finding out if the presence of ctDNA after surgery means it is more likely that the patient will relapse and therefore chemotherapy is necessary and conversely, if no trace of DNA means that the patient could potentially avoid chemotherapy. If successful this trial will change clinical practice globally.

So far they have studied a subset of breast cancers (so-called triple negative breast cancer), which has a higher risk of relapse and has ctDNA that is more likely to be detected. Over the next few months, they will finish the feasibility study. They will then continue to look at the rest of the samples. The samples have been sequenced using the new Illumina MiniSeq machine purchased with Le Cure funds.

Alongside funding the research fellows, Le Cure has funded the Illuminan MiniSeq machine and Visiopharm Image analysis system, vital equipment used in these projects. Le Cure also provided funding for the keynote speaker at the first UK Interdisciplinary Breast Cancer Symposium in 2018. This was an excellent platform to celebrate and promote the success of Le Cure to an elite international audience and advance breast cancer research globally.

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