When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer I discovered that many people in cancer treatment participate in clinical trials. I wanted my experience to be meaningful, so wanted to participate in research in some way. Unfortunately, the bilateral nature of my disease meant that I didn’t qualify for a trial relating to chemotherapy (which in the end, was probably a good thing – who knows).
So, when asked if I wanted to participate in a trial that measures cell free DNA (cfDNA), I was happy to oblige. From my perspective, it only involves providing blood samples at four different intervals (when I’d likely be having blood checks anyways). I had recently read about the cfDNA relating to other cancers and metastatic disease. The question is, is there a relationship between cfDNA (that is tumor cells in your blood stream) after surgery and the presence of cancer in your body? In some cancers, cfDNA post surgery has been shown to correlate to disease progression. What this would mean is a blood test after surgery could indicate the likelihood of disease progression – which would in-turn allow for more or less drastic treatment. It would help cancer patients and their care teams make more informed decisions about treatment.
Unfortunately, participating in the trial does not mean I’ll know anything about whether my blood has the cfDNA or not (or more accurately, to what degree my blood has cfDNA) – which is probably a good thing, as we don’t actually know if it is a marker or not, and I wouldn’t want to be making treatment decisions based upon something that might or might not be relevant. I’m just happy that I can do something to help further our understanding of breast cancer progression, and it is pretty cool that I had heard about the concept prior to being asked to be in the study.