WHAT IF people with blood cancer—and their doctors—could learn whether a treatment is working in real time?
Typically, it takes months to confirm whether cancer treatment is effective. For patients, this means months filled with worry and doubt: Am I getting better? What if the treatment isn’t working? Will I have to start over with something new? Doctors, too, become frustrated, unable to put their patients’ minds at ease.
David Kurtz, MD
“A lot of oncology is bearing this uncertainty,” explained David Kurtz, MD, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University Medical Center. In 2016, Dr. Kurtz received the Åke Bertil Eriksson Young Investigator Award supported by Aaron and Barbro Sasson. This grant enabled him to begin studying a faster, more efficient way to assess a treatment’s effectiveness.
“Our research focuses on being able to monitor and track in real time a patient’s response to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery,” said Dr. Kurtz.
Specifically, Dr. Kurtz and his team are exploring the use of liquid biopsies to evaluate patients with lymphoma. This technique is less invasive than a typical biopsy, and it can provide answers quickly—as soon as a few days after a therapy has begun.
“Using this strategy, we can determine as soon as a patient is getting chemotherapy, as soon as they’re getting radiation therapy, whether they’re responding appropriately,” explained Dr. Kurtz. “Then we can either take some confidence that the treatment is working or switch to a more effective therapy if necessary.”
“To me, conquering cancer means improving the experience for our patients,” said Dr. Kurtz. ■
© 2018. American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.