Last month, Shannon’s Path visited Dana Farber Cancer Institute to present our first research donation in Shannon’s memory to Dr. Harsh Singh. The donation, which was the culmination of an outstanding inaugural year thanks to the generous support of so many, will be utilized by Dr. Singh to continue his extraordinary research on GI and appendiceal cancer. Currently, Dr. Singh and his team have been working on research to understand how to use circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) to monitor and improve appendiceal cancer treatment.
ctDNA is easily measured in patients through liquid biopsies (blood draws) and allows oncologists to identify the presence and severity of cancerous cells. With this knowledge, medical teams can quickly understand how appendiceal cancer patients are responding to treatment and can fine-tune chemotherapy cocktails to improve their efficacy. Dr. Singh’s work significantly improves appendiceal cancer diagnosis and treatment as current methods (CT scans and CEA blood work) often prove to be inadequate or imprecise.
Dr. Singh was thrilled with the donation and commented that “it will (and is already having) a tremendous impact!” Dr. Singh’s work will ultimately be published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
In addition to meeting with Dr. Singh and the Dana Farber team, the day at Dana Farber was extra-special as we were joined by two of Shannon’s dedicated nurses who were a reassuring presence throughout her 5-year bi-weekly chemotherapy treatments. Both developed a special relationship with Shannon and continue to serve patients and their families at DFCI.
This grant to Dr. Singh’s research lab is the start of a strong partnership between Shannon’s Path and the Dana Farber team. We are looking forward to building on this partnership with Dr. Singh and others that are exploring ways to enrich the lives of those confronting appendiceal cancer. Our team is constantly vetting future opportunities to support promising research at Dana Farber and other cancer research institutions, but if you are aware of any current studies in need of funding, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
What is ctDNA testing? (Excerpt from MD Anderson Cancer Center)
Tumors are made up of cells, and at the center of those cells is DNA. As cancer cells go through their life cycle, fragments of DNA can enter the bloodstream. This is known as circulating tumor DNA – or ctDNA, for short.
ctDNA testing examines a patient’s blood to detect DNA fragments from cancer cells. Cancer cells have constant turnover. They die and make new cells. So, as a tumor grows, the amount of ctDNA may be higher. It is a far simpler approach to studying DNA taken by an actual biopsy of a cancerous tumor.
The technology is still fairly new, but the information found in the blood may help guide cancer care. “In some cases, we can diagnose, monitor or potentially even identify new targets for therapy based on the little fragments of DNA that are floating around,” says Anthony Lucci, MD at MD Anderson Cancer Center.