Plasma as a monitoring tool in breast cancer patients
My main research is focused on investigating the utility of surrogate DNA and RNA biomarker in cell-free plasma tumour of disease monitoring of breast cancer patients in collaboration with Professor R C Coombes (Imperial College). In more than 80% of patients, tumour specific DNA can be detected in plasma, both on grounds of fragment size and tumour specific alterations. We are the first group to successfully demonstrate genome-wide analysis of plasma DNA from cancer patients using SNP arrays and we are currently analyzing a large number of plasma samples from breast cancer patients on follow-up using this approach (Funded by CRUK TRICC). The molecular studies of plasma DNA are being applied to two ongoing clinical trials (in collaboration with Prof Coombes, Drs C Palmieri and Dr S Cleator (CRUK NeoCENT Trial). We are investigating changes with time in serial plasma samples of breast cancer patients on follow-up, to investigate whether these can be yused to predict metastatic progression and the development of resistance to therapy. This may lead to an increased surviva of patients. The research strategy employed is to use genomic SNP arrays (to detect copy number variation and LOH) and real-time PCR assays to quantify DNA and detect amplifications (notably HER-2 amplification) and promoter methylation. We are also piloting analysis of circulating RNA focussing on detection of micro RNAs.