It’s all for the patients


This is a wonderful story of how Snowdome is making a difference to patients’ lives right now. Snowdome in collaboration with the Epworth Medical Centre is funding research into a novel way of diagnosing and assessing blood cancers in order to individualise treatment for patients.

Currently diagnosis and assessment of blood cancer progression relies on an invasive biopsy of the lymph node or bone marrow, depending on the cancer type. However, new research indicates that DNA from cancer can be found circulating in the patient’s blood. This DNA is called circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) and analysing it may provide a broader perspective of the blood cancer that is not limited to the biopsied area. It is hoped that a simple blood test may add value beyond what is achievable with an invasive biopsy or replace it entirely in certain situations. However, for this to occur trials need to be conducted to validate this method against current standards.

At a dinner held at the Epworth Richmond library, Dr Costas Yannakou brought to life the hope that using ctDNA analysis can bring to patients. He told the account of a patient with lymphoma that he met in his clinic just that morning for a follow-up appointment. A biopsy of the patient’s tumour did not reveal any high-risk characteristics that indicated a need to reconsider the standard path of chemotherapy for the treatment of this disease. However, at the same time a liquid biopsy (blood sample) was taken to detect and assess ctDNA. The liquid biopsy identified a mutation that is known to confer resistance to conventional chemotherapy. This new piece of information fundamentally altered the patient’s treatment path. The patient is now being considered for specific targeted treatments that may save months of toxic, ineffective chemotherapy.

Results from ctDNA can also be used to monitor a patient’s response to treatment, allow for much earlier detection of relapse, and allow for quicker institution of salvage therapy.

The Snowdome Foundation sees the hope this research can bring to patients and is partnering with the Epworth Medical Foundation to fund the advancement of ctDNA for clinical use. The ctDNA research requires a team of researchers, clinicians, nurses and patients collaborating together. Through our generous donors, funds have been raised for year one but $295,000 is still required for both years 2 and 3. All donations are ‘matched’ by the Epworth Medical Foundation. If you are inspired by this story please consider donating.

Snowdome ‘making hope real’