A new blood test could indicate whether cancer has become resistant to drugs.
British scientists have developed a blood test which warns when skin cancer has returned to a recovering patient.
Doctors hope the breakthrough will allow them to move quickly to tackle the disease before it progresses too far, potentially saving thousands of lives.
Malignant melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer, is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, with 15,000 people diagnosed each year.
Malignant melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, with 15,000 are diagnosed annually
Most patients respond to treatment at first, and many start to recover, but their cancer can soon become resistant to first-line drugs.
The new blood test, developed by experts at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, is designed to sound a warning bell that the cancer has become resistant and has started to advance.
Until now doctors have only been able to tell this has happened when symptoms return, or scans show that a large tumour has developed elsewhere in the body.
But the new test detects DNA of even small tumours in the blood, giving doctors the chance to act before the cancer becomes firmly established.
When this happens these patients can be offered one of a number of breakthrough immunotherapy drugs which have emerged in the last two years, such as pembrolizumab, nivolumab and ipilimumab.
According to results published in the journal Cancer Discovery today, initial trials on seven advanced melanoma patients showed that the test was accurate.
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